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MACMILLAN & CO., Limfted 








Author of "Christianity and the Social Crisis," "Christianizing 

the Social Order," "Prayers of the Social Awakening," 

"The Social Principles of Jesus," etc. 

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A.U rights reserved 





Set up and electrotyped. Published, November, 1917. 













In April, 19 17, I had the honour of delivering four 
lectures on the Nathaniel W. Taylor Foundation before 
the Annual Convocation of the Yale School of Religion. 
These lectures are herewith presented in elaborated form. 

The Taylor Lectures are expected to deal with some 
theme in Doctrinal Theology, but the Faculty in their in- 
vitation indicated that a discussion of some phase of the 
social problem would be welcome. I have tried to obey 
this suggestion and still to remain well within the original 
purpose of the Foundation by taking as my subject, " A 
Theology for the Social Gospel." 

Of my qualifications for this subject I have reason to 
think modestly, for I am not a doctrinal theologian either 
by professional training or by personal habits of mind. 
Professional duty and intellectual liking have made me 
a teacher of Church History, and the events of my life, 
interpreted by my religious experiences, have laid the 
social problems on my mind. On the other hand, it may 
be that the necessity of approaching systematic theology 
from the outside may be of real advantage. Theology 
has often received its most fruitful impulses when secu- 
lar life and movements have set it new problems. 

Of the subject itself I have no cause to speak modestly. 
Its consideration is of the highest importance for the 
future of theology and religion. It b ristles with Intel- 


lectual problems. This book had to be written some 
time, and as far as I know, nobody has yet written it. I 
offer my attempt until some other man comes along who 
can plough deeper and straighten 

I wish to assure the reader who hesitates in the vesti- 
bule, that the purpose of this book is wholly positive and 
constructive. It is just as orthodox as the Gospel would 
allow. I have dedicated it to an eminent representative 
of the older theology in order to express my deep grati- 
tude for what I have received from it, and to clasp hands 
through him with all whose thought has been formed by 
Jesus Christ. 

My fraternal thanks are due to my friends, Professor 
James Bishop Thomas, Ph.D., of the University of the 
South, and Professor F. W. C. Meyer of Rochester Theo- 
logical Seminary, who have given a critical reading to my 
manuscript and have made valuable suggestions. 



















The Challenge of the Social Gospel to The- 
ology I 

The Difficulties of Theological Readjust- 
ment 10 

Neither Alien nor Novel ........ 23 

The Consciousness of Sin ....... 31 

The Fall of Man 38 

The Nature of Sin 45 

The Transmission of Sin 57 

The Super-Personal Forces of Evil .... 69 

The Kingdom of Evil yy 

The Social Gospel and Personal Salvation , 95 

The Salvation of the Super-Personal Forces iio 

The Church as the Social Factor of Salva- 
tion 118 

The Kingdom of God . 131 

The Initiator of the Kingdom of God . . . 146 

The Social Gospel and the Conception of God 167 

The Holy Spirit, Revelation, Inspiration, and 
Prophecy 188 

Baptism and the Lord's Supper 197 

Eschatology 208 

The Social Gospel and the Atonement . . .240 




We have a social gospel. We need a systematic theol- 
ogy large enough to match it and vital enough to back it. 

This is the main proposition of this book. The first 
three chapters are to show that a readjustment and ex- 
pansion of theology, so that it will furnish an adequate 
intellectual basis for the social gospel, is necessary, feas- 
ible, desirable, and legitimate. The remainder of the 
book offers concrete suggestions how some of the most 
important sections of doctrinal theology may be expanded 
and readjusted to make room for the religious convic- 
tions summed up in " the social gospel." 

Some of my readers, who know the age, the tenacity, 
and the monumental character of theology well, will 
smile at the audacity of this proposal. Others, who 
know theology still better, will treat this venture very 
seriously. If theology stops growing or is unable to ad- 
just itself to its modern environment and to meet its pres- 
ent tasks, it will die. Many now regard it as dead. The 
social gospel needs a theology to make it effective; but 
theology needs the social gospel to vitalize it. The work 


attempted in this book is doomed to futility if it has only 
the personal ideas of the author behind it. It is worthy 
of consideration only if the needs of a new epoch are 
seeking expression in it, and in that case its personal de- 
fects are of slight importance. 

The argument of this book is built on the conviction 
that the social gospel is a permanent addition to our spir- 
itual outlook and that its arrival constitutes a stage in the 
development of the Christian religion. 

We need not waste words to prove that the social gos- 
pel is being preached. It is no longer a prophetic and 
occasional note. It is a novelty only in backward social 
or religious communities. The social gospel has become 

It is not only preached. It has set new problems for 
local church work, and has turned the pastoral and organ- 
izing work of the ministry into new and constructive di- 
rections. It has imparted a wider vision and a more 
statesmanlike grasp to the foreign mission enterprise. In 
home missions, its advent was signalized by the publica- 
tion, in 1885, o^ " Our Country " by Josiah Strong. 
(Venerabile nomen!) That book lifted the entire home 
mission problem to a higher level. The religious litera- 
ture uttering the social gospel is notable both for its vol- 
ume and its vitality and conviction. The emotional fer- 
*vour of the new convictions has created prayers and 
hymns of social aspiration, for which the newer hymn 
books are making room. Conservative denominations 
have formally committed themselves to the fundamental 
ideas of the social gospel and their practical application. 


The plans of great interdenominational organizations are 
inspired by it. It has become a constructive force in 
American politics. 

This new orientation, which is observable in all parts 
of our religious life, is not simply a prudent adjustment 
of church methods to changed conditions. There is re- 
ligious compulsion behind it. Those who are in touch 
with the student population know what the impulse to 
social service means to college men and women. It is 
the most religious element in the life of many of them. 
Among ministerial students there is an almost impatient 
demand for a proper social outlet. Some hesitate to en- 
ter the regular ministry at all because they doubt 
whether it will offer them sufficient opportunity and 
freedom to utter and apply their social convictions. For 
many ministers who have come under the influence of the 
social gospel in mature years, it has signified a religious 
crisis, and where it has been met successfully, it has 
brought fresh joy and power, and a distinct enlargement 
of mind. It has taken the place of conventional religion 
in the lives of many outside the Church. It constitutes 
the moral power in the propaganda of Socialism. 

All those social groups which distinctly face toward the 
future, clearly show their need and craving for a social 
interpretation and application of Christianity. Whoever 
wants to hold audiences of working people must es- 
tablish some connection between religion and their social 
feelings and experiences. The religious organizations 
dealing with college men and women know that any appeal 
which leaves out the social note«is likely to meet a listless 
audience. The most effective evangelists for these two 


groups are men who have thoroughly embodied the so- 
cial gospel in their religious life and thought. When 
the great evangelistic effort of the " Men and Religion 
Forward Movement " was first planned, its organizers 
made room for " Social Service '' very hesitatingly. But 
as soon as the movement was tried out before the public, 
it became clear that only the meetings which offered the 
people the social application of religion were striking fire 
and drawing crowds. 

The Great War has dwarfed and submerged all other 
issues, including our social problems. But in fact the 
war is the most acute and tremendous social problem of 
all. All whose Christianity has not been ditched by the 
catastrophe are demanding a christianizing of interna- 
tional relations. The demand for disarmament and per- 
manent peace, for the rights of the small nations against 
the imperialistic and colonizing powers, for freedom of 
the seas and of trade routes, for orderly settlement of 
grievances, — these are demands for social righteousness 
and fraternity on the largest scale. Before the War the 
social gospel dealt with social classes; to-day it is being 
translated into international terms. The ultimate cause 
of the war was the same lust for easy and unearned 
gain which has created the internal social evils under 
which every nation has suffered. The social problem 
and the war problem are fundamentally one problem, and 
the social gospel faces both. After the War the social 
gospel will " come back " with pent-up energy and clearer 
knowledge. "^ 

The social movement is the most important ethical and 
spiritual movement in the modern world, and the social 


gospel is the response of the Christian consciousness to it. 
Therefore it had to be. The social gospel registers the 
fact that for the first time in history the spirit of Christi- 
anity has had a chance to form a working partnership 
with real social and psychological science. It is the re- 
ligious reaction on the historic advent of democracy. It 
seeks to put the democratic spirit, which the Church in- 
herited from Jesus and the prophets, once more in control 
of the institutions and teachings of the Church.^ 

The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but 
enlarged and intensified. The individualistic gospel has 
taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and 
has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power 
of God to save every soul that comes to him. But it has 
not given us an adequate understanding of the sinful- 
ness of the social order and its share in the sins of all 
individuals within it. It has not evoked faith in the will 
and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions 
of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression 
and extortion. Both our sense of sin and our faith in 
salvation have fallen short of the realities under its teach- 
ing. The social gospel seeks to bring men under repent- 
ance for their collective sins and to create a more sensi- 
tive and more modern conscience. It calls on us for the 

1 In his " Social Idealism and the Changing Theology," embody- 
ing the Taylor Lectures for 1912, Professor Gerald B. Smith has 
shown clearly the discrepancy created by the aristocratic attitude of 
authority in theology and the spread of democracy in modern 
ethical life, and has insisted that a readjustment is necessary in 
theology at this point to conform it to our ethical ideals. Professor 
Smith expresses the fear that our critical methods by themselves 
will lead only to a barren intellectualism. That feeling has been 
one motive in the writing of the present book. 


faith of the old prophets who believed in the salvation 
of nations. 

Now, if this insight and religious outlook become com- 
mon to large and vigorous sections of the Christian 
Church, the solutions of life contained in the old theo- 
logical system will seem puny and inadequate. Our faith 
will be larger than the intellectual system which subtends 
it. Can theology expand to meet the growth of faith? 
The biblical studies have responded to the spiritual hun- 
ger aroused by the social gospel. The historical interpre- 
tation of the Bible has put the religious personalities, 
their spiritual struggles, their growth, and their utter- 
ances, into social connection with the community life of 
which they were part. This method of interpretation 
has given back the Bible to men of modernized intelli- 
gence and has made it the feeder of faith in the social 
gospel. The studies of " practical theology '* are all in a 
process of rejuvenation and expansion in order to create 
competent leadership for the Church, and most of these 
changes are due to the rise of new ideals created by the 
social gospel. What, then, will doctrinal theology do to 
meet the new situation? Can it ground and anchor the 
social gospel in the eternal truths of our religion and 
build its main ideas into the systematic structure of chris- 
tian doctrine? 

Theology is not superior to the gospel. It exists to 
aid the preaching of salvation. Its business is to make 
the essential facts and principles of Christianity so simple 
and clear, so adequate and mighty, that all who preach 
or teach the gospel, both ministers and laymen, can draw 


on its stores and deliver a complete and unclouded Chris- 
tian message. When the progress of humanity creates 
new tasks, such as world-wide missions, or new problems, 
such as the social problem, theology must connect these 
with the old fundamentals of our faith and make them 
Christian tasks and problems. 

The adjustment of the Christian message to the regen- 
eration of the social order is plainly one of the most 
difficult tasks ever laid on the intellect of religious lead- 
ers. The pioneers of the social gospel have had a hard 
time trying to consolidate their old faith and their new 
aim. Some have lost their faith; others have come out 
of the struggle with crippled formulations of truth. Does 
not our traditional theology deserve some of the blame 
for this spiritual wastage because it left these men with- 
out spiritual support and allowed them to become the 
vicarious victims of our theological inefficiency? If our 
theology is silent on social salvation, we compel college 
men and women, workingmen, and theological students, 
to choose between an unsocial system of theology and 
an irreligious system of social salvation. It is not hard 
to predict the outcome. If we seek to keep Christian 
doctrine unchanged, we shall ensure its abandonment. 

Instead of being an aid in the development of the 
social gospel, systematic theology has often been a real 
clog. When a minister speaks to his people about child 
labour or the exploitation of the lowly by the strong; 
when he insists on adequate food, education, recreation, 
and a really human opportunity for all, there is response. 
People are moved by plain human feeling and by the in- 
stinctive convictions which they have learned from Jesus 


Christ. But at once there are doubting and dissenting 
voices. We are told that environment has no saving 
power ; regeneration is what men need ; we can not have a 
regenerate society without regenerate individuals; we do 
not live for this world but for the life to come; it is not 
the function of the church to deal with economic ques- 
tions; any effort to change the social order before the 
coming of the Lord is foredoomed to failure. These ob- 
jections all issue from the theological consciousness cre- 
ated by traditional church teaching. These half-truths 
are the proper product of a half-way system of theology 
in which there is no room for social redemption. Thus 
the Church is halting between two voices that call it. On 
the one side is the voice of the living Christ amid living 
men to-day; on the other side is the voice of past ages 
embodied in theology. Who will say that the authority 
of this voice has never confused our Christian judgment 
and paralysed our determination to establish God's king- 
dom on earth? 

Those who have gone through the struggle for a clear 
faith in the social gospel would probably agree that the 
doctrinal theology in which they were brought up, was 
one of the most baffling hindrances in their spiritual crisis, 
and that all their mental energies were taxed to over- 
come the weight of its traditions. They were fortunate 
if they promptly discovered some recent theological book 
which showed them at least the possibility of conceiving 
Christian doctrine in social terms, and made them con- 
scious of a fellowship of faith in their climb toward 
the light. The situation would be much worse if Chris- 
tian thought were nourished on doctrine only. Fortu- 


nately our hymns and prayers have a richer consciousness 
of solidarity than individuaHstic theology. But even to- 
day many ministers have a kind of dumb-bell system 
of thought, with the social gospel at one end and individ- 
ual salvation at the other end, and an attenuated connec- 
tion between them. The strength of our faith is in its 
unity. Religion wants wholeness of life. We need a 
rounded system of doctrine large enough to take in all 
our spiritual interests. 

In short, we need a theology large enough to contain 
the social gospel, and alive and productive enough not 
to hamper it. 



Any demand for changes in Christian doctrine is sure 
to cause a quiver of apprehension and distress. Re- 
ligious truth is the truth our souls live by and it is too 
dear to be scrapped and made over. Even to grant the 
possibility of the need of change means a loss of assur- 
ance and certitude, and that hurts. The passionate in- 
terest of many in the beliefs which have been the food 
of their spiritual life for years creates a social resistance 
to change in religious thought. Every generation tries 
to put its doctrine on a high shelf where the children can 
not reach it. For instance, the Methodist Church will 
not be charged with sitting on the clock, but its creed has 
been put beyond the reach even of the highest body of 
the Church. Its " Articles of Religion " were an adapta- 
tion of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England 
by John Wesley ; to-day they seem to have the better of 
the starry universe, for they can never change : " The 
General Conference shall not revoke, alter, nor change 
our Articles of Religion, nor establish any new standards 
or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and 
established standards of doctrine." 

I have entire sympathy with the conservative instinct 
which shrinks from giving up any of the dear possessions 



which have made life holy for us. We have none too 
much of them left. It is a comfort to me to know that 
the changes required to make room for the social gospel 
are not destructive but constructive. They involve addi- 
tion and not subtraction. The social gospel calls for an 
expansion in the scope of salvation and for more re- 
ligious dynamic to do the work of God. It requires more 
faith and not less. It offers a more thorough and dura- 
ble salvation. It is able to create a more searching sense 
of sin and to preach repentance to the respectable and 
mighty who have ridden humanity to the mouth of hell. 

The attacks on our inherited theology have usually 
come from the intellectuals who are galled by the yoke of 
uncritical and unhistorical beliefs brought down from 
pre-scientific centuries. They are entirely within their 
right in insisting that what is scientifically impossible shall 
not be laid as an obligatory belief on the neck of modern 
men in the name of religion. But the rational subtrac- 
tions of liberalism do not necessarily make religion more 
religious. We have to snuff the candle to remove the 
burnt-out wick, but we may snuff out the flame, and all the 
matches may prove to be damp. Critical clarifying is 
decidedly necessary, but power in religion comes only 
through the consciousness of a great elementary need 
which compels men to lay hold of God anew. The social 
gospel speaks to such a need, and where a real harmony 
has been established it has put new fire and power into 
the old faith. 

The power of conservatism is not all due to religious 
tenderness and loyalty. Some of it results from less wor- 
thy causes. Doctrinal theology is in less direct contact 


with facts than other theological studies. Exegesis and 
church history deal with historical material and their 
business is to discover the facts. New facts and the 
pressure of secular scientific work compel them to revise 
their results and keep close to realities. Doctrinal the- 
ology deals with less substantial and ascertainable things. 
It perpetuates an esoteric stream of tradition. What 
every church demands of its systematic theologians is to 
formulate clearly and persuasively what that church has 
always held and taught. If they go beyond that they are 
performing a work of supererogation for which they do 
not always receive thanks. 

Theoretically the Church is the great organization of 
unselfish service. Actually the Church has always been 
profoundly concerned for its own power and authority. 
But its authority rests in large part on the stability of its 
doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church has always been 
in the nature of a defensive organization to maintain uni- 
formity of teaching. The physical suppression of heresy 
was merely the last and crudest means employed by it to 
resist change. The more subtle and spiritual forms of 
pressure have doubtless been felt by every person who 
ever differed with his own church, whatever it was. This 
selfish ecclesiastical conservatism is not for the Kingdom 
of God but against it. 

Theology needs periodical rejuvenation. Its greatest 
danger is not mutilation but senility. It is strong and 
vital when it expresses in large reasonings what youthful 
religion feels and thinks. When people have to be in- 
doctrinated laboriously in order to understand theology at 


all, it becomes a dead burden. The dogmas and theo- 
logical ideas of the early Church were those ideas which 
at that time were needed to hold the Church together, to 
rally its forces, and to give it victorious energy against 
antagonistic powers. To-day many of those ideas are 
without present significance. Our reverence for them is 
a kind of ancestor worship. To hold laboriously to a 
religious belief which does not hold us, is an attenuated 
form of asceticism; we chastise and starve our intellect 
to sanctify it by holy beliefs. The social gospel does not 
need the aid of church authority to get hold of our hearts. 
It gets hold in spite of such authority when necessary. 
It will do for us what the Nicene theology did in the 
fourth century, and the Reformation theology in the six- 
teenth. Without it theology will inevitably become more 
and more a reminiscence.^ 

The great religious thinkers who created theology were 
always leaders who were shaping ideas to meet actual 
situations. The new theology of Paul was a product of 
fresh religious experience and of practical necessities. 
His idea that the Jewish law had been abrogated by 
Christ's death was worked out in order to set his mission 
to the Gentiles free from the crippling grip of the past 
and to make an international religion of Christianity. 
Luther worked out the doctrine of "justification by 
faith " because he had found by experience that it gave 

1 President H. C. King's " Reconstruction in Theology " gives 
an admirable summary of the causes for dissatisfaction with the 
old doctrinal statements, and of the fundamental moral and spiritual 
convictions which demand embodiment in theology. See also 
Prof. Gerald B. Smith's lucid analysis in his " Social Idealism and 
the Changing Theology." 


him a surer and happier way to God than the effort to 
win merit by his own works. But that doctrine became 
the foundation of a new theology for whole nations be- 
cause it proved to be the battle-cry of a great social and 
religious upheaval and the effective means of breaking 
down the semi-political power of the clergy, of shutting 
up monasteries, of secularizing church property, and of 
increasing the economic and political power of city coun- 
cils and princes. There is nothing else in sight to-day 
which has power to rejuvenate theology except the con- 
sciousness of vast sins and sufferings, and the longing for 
righteousness and a new life, which are expressed in the 
social gospel. 

Every forward step in the historical evolution of re- 
ligion has been marked by a closer union of religion and 
ethics and by the elimination of non-ethical religious per- 
formances. This union of religion and ethics reached 
its highest perfection in the life and mind of Jesus. Af- 
ter him Christianity quickly dropped back to the pre- 
christian stage. Ceremonial actions and orthodox beliefs 
became indispensable to salvation; they had a value of 
their own, quite apart from their bearing on conduct. 
Theology had the task of defending and inculcating these 
non-ethical ingredients of religion, and that pulled the- 
ology down. It is clear that our Christianity is most 
Christian when religion and ethics are viewed as insepa- 
rable elements of the same single-minded and whole- 
hearted life, in which the consciousness of God and the 
consciousness of humanity blend completely. Any new 
movement in theology which emphatically asserts the 


union of religion and ethics is likely to be a wholesome 
and christianizing force in Christian thought. 

The social gospel is of that nature. It plainly con- 
centrates religious interest on the great ethical problems 
of social life. It scorns the tithing of mint, anise and 
cummin, at which the Pharisees are still busy, and insists 
on getting down to the weightier matters of God's law, to 
justice and mercy. It ties up religion not only with duty, 
but with big duty that stirs the soul with religious feeling 
and throws it back on God for help. The non-ethical 
practices and beliefs in historical Christianity nearly all 
centre on the winning of heaven and immortality. On 
the other hand, the Kingdom of God can be established 
by nothing except righteous life and action. There is 
nothing in social Christianity which is likely to breed or 
reinforce superstition. The more the social gospel en- 
gages and inspires theological thought, the more will re- 
ligion be concentrated on ethical righteousness. The so- 
cial gospel is bound to be a reformatory and christianiz- 
ing force inside of theology. 

Theology is the esoteric thought of the Church. Some 
of its problems are unknown and unintelligible except 
where the Church keeps an interest in them alive. Even 
the terminology of theology is difficult for anyone to un- 
derstand unless he has lived under church influence for 
years. Jesus and his followers were laymen. The peo- 
ple felt that his teaching was different from the argu- 
ments of their theologians, less ponderous and more mov- 
ing. When Christianity worked its way from the lower 
to the higher classes, its social sympathies became less 


democratic and fraternal, its language less simple, and 
its ideas more speculative, elaborate and remote. Origen 
felt he had to apologize for the homely Greek and the 
simple arguments of Jesus. Theology became an affair 
of experts. The first duty of the laymen was to believe 
with all their hearts what they could not possibly under- 
stand with all their heads. 

The practical result has been that laymen have always 
assented as they were told, but have made an unconscious 
private selection of the truths that seemed to contain 
marrow for them. The working creed of the common 
man is usually very brief. A man may tote a large load 
of theology and live on a small part of it. If ministers 
periodically examined their church members as profes- 
sors examine their classes, they would find that a man 
can be in the rain a long time and not become wetter 
under the skin. Even in the Middle Ages, when all phil- 
osophy was theology and when religious doubt was rare, 
the laity seem to have had their own system of faith. In 
the memoirs of statesmen and artists and merchants, in 
the songs of the common people, and in the secret sym- 
bolism of the masons and other gilds, we find a simple 
faith which guided their life. They believed in God and 
his law, in immortality and retribution, in Christ and 
his mercy, in the abiding difference between righteousness 
and evil, and by this faith they tried to do their duty 
where God had given them their job in life. 

The social gospel approximates lay religion. It deals 
with the ethical problems of the present life with which 
the common man is familiar and which press upon his 
conscience. Yet it appeals to God, his will, his kingdom ; 


to Christ, his spirit, his law. Audiences who are es- 
tranged from the Church and who would listen to the- 
ological terminology with frank scorn, will listen with ab- 
sorbed interest to religious thought when it is linked with 
their own social problems. 

Theology ought not to par^e down its thought to the 
rudimentary ideas of untrained people. But every in- 
fluence which compels it to simplify its terms and to deal 
with actual life is a blessing to theology. Theological 
professors used to lecture and write in Latin. There is 
perhaps no other language in which one can utter plati- 
tudes so sonorously and euphoniously. It must have been 
a sanitary sweating off of adipose tissue when theology 
began to talk in the vernacular. It will be a similar in- 
crease of health when theology takes in hand the problems 
of social redemption and considers how its doctrines con- 
nect with the Kingdom of God in actual realization. 

The renovating effect of the social gospel would aid 
theology to meet the really modern religious needs. 
Heart religion is always a cry of need. Men pray be- 
cause a burden is on their life; sickness threatens them; 
a child is in danger; some morbid passion has gained a 
footing in their mind or body and can not be shaken off ; 
some evil has been done which can not be undone. The 
need is beyond their own strength. So they cry to a 
higher Power to help, to forgive, to cleanse, to save. 

Now, many of the fears and burdens which drove men 
to the altars of their gods in the past are being eased in 
modern life. People are learning to trace diseases to 
natural causes instead of the evil eye, or the devil, or the 


anger of God. Even the streptococcus has a friendlier 
look than the omnipresent devils that haunt a Burmese 
hill tribe. Men used to feel acute guilt if they had com- 
mitted some ritual oversight, such as touching a taboo 
thing, eating meat on Friday, or working on the Sab- 
bath. The better teachings of modern Christianity and 
general religious indifference have combined to reduce 
that sort of fear and guilt. 

On the other hand we are becoming much more sensi- 
tive about collective sins in which we are involved. I 
have a neighbour who owns stock in a New England cot- 
ton mill. Recently the company opened a factory in 
North Carolina and began to employ child labour. 
This man's young daughter faded away when she was 
emerging from childhood, and so he thinks of the other 
girls, who are breathing cotton fluff for him. A corre- 
spondent wrote me whose husband, a man of national 
reputation, had bought stock in a great steel company. 
She is a Jewess and a pacifist. When the plant began 
to devote itself to the manufacture of shrapnel and 
bombs in 19 15, she felt involved. But what was her 
husband to do with the stock? Would it make things 
better if he passed the war-stained property to another 
man? I know a woman whose father, back in the 
nineties, took a fortune out of a certain dirty mill town. 
She is now living on his fortune ; but the children of the 
mill-hands are living on their misfortune. No effort of 
hers can undo more than a fraction of the evil which 
was set in motion while that fortune was being accumu- 

If these burdens of conscience were foolish or morbid, 


increased insight and a purer Christian teaching would 
lift them. But it is increased insight and Christian feel- 
ing which created them. An unawakened person does 
not inquire on whose life juices his big dividends are fat- 
tening. Upper-class minds have been able to live para- 
sitic lives without any fellow-feeling for the peasants or 
tenants whom they were draining to pay for their leisure. 
Modern democracy brings these lower fellow-men up to 
our field of vision. Then if a man has drawn any real 
religious feeling from Christ, his participation in the sys- 
tematized oppression of civilization will, at least at times, 
seem an intolerable burden and guilt. Is this morbid? 
Or is it morbid to live on without such realization? 
Those who to-day are still without a consciousness of 
collective wrong must be classified as men of darkened 

These are distinctly modern burdens. They will con- 
tinue to multiply and increase. Does the old theology 
meet them? Was it competent to meet the religious 
problems raised by the war? Can personal forgiveness 
settle such accounts as some men run up with their fellow- 
men? Does Calvinism deal adequately with a man who 
appears before the judgment seat of Christ with $50,000,- 
000 and its human corollaries to his credit, and then 
pleads a free pardon through faith in the atoning sac- 
rifice ? 

Religious experience, as William James has shown us, 
has many varieties, and some are distinctly higher than 
others. The form most common among us has come 
through an intense concentration on a man's own sins, his 


needs, his destiny. In the Old Testament we have a 
number of accounts describing how men of the highest 
type of God-consciousness made their fundamental ex- 
perience of God and received their prophetic mission. In 
none of these cases did the prophet struggle for his per- 
sonal salvation as later Christian saints have done. His 
woe did not come through fear of personal damnation, 
but through his sense of solidarity with his people and 
through social feeling; his hope and comfort was not for 
himself alone but for his nation. This form of religious 
experience is more distinctively Christian than any form 
which is caused by fear and which thinks only of self. It 
contains larger possibilities of personal growth and re- 
ligious power. 

The social gospel creates a type of religious experience 
corresponding closely to the prophetic type. It fuses the 
Christian spirit and the social consciousness in a new out- 
reaching toward God and in remarkable experiences of 
his comfort and inspiring power. This is the most youth- 
ful, modern, and effective form of present-day religion. 

Religious experience reacts on theology. Consider the 
men who have turned theological thought into new chan- 
nels — Paul, Augustine, Luther, Fox Wesley, Schleier- 
macher. These were all men who had experienced God 
at first hand and while under the pressure of new prob- 
lems. Then they generalized on the basis of their ex- 
perience. Paul, for instance, had borne the weight of 
the Law; he had found his own efforts futile; he had 
found Christ gracious, free, and a power of life. On this 
experience he built his theology. A like experience under 
Catholic legalism enabled Luther to understand Paul; he 


revitalized the Pauline theology, built a theology of eman- 
cipation on that, and threw out of religious practice and 
thought what was not in agreement with his experience 
and its formula. 

The rank and file of us have no genius and can not 
erect our personal experience into a common standard. 
But our early experiences act as a kind of guide by which 
we test what seems to have truth and reality. We select 
those theoretical ideas which agree with our experience, 
and are cold to those which have never entered into our 
life. When such a selective process is exercised by many 
active minds, who all act on the same lines, the total effect 
on theological thought is considerable. This is a kind of 
theological referendum, a democratic change in theology 
on the basis of religious experience. 

Connect these two propositions : that an experience of 
religion through the medium of solidaristic social feeling 
is an experience of unusually high ethical quality, akin to 
that of the prophets of the Bible; and second, that a fresh 
and clearly marked religious experience reacts on theol- 
ogy. Can we not justly expect that the increasing in- 
fluence of the social gospel and all that it stands for, will 
have a salutary influence on theology ? The social gospel 
has already restored the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, 
which held first place with Jesus but which individualistic 
theology carefully wrapped in several napkins and forgot. 
Theology always needs rejuvenation. Most of all in a 
great epoch of change like ours. Yet change always 
hurts. If change must come, the influence of the social 
gospel is the most constructive and wholesome channel 
by which it could possibly come. Surely theology will 


not become less Christian by widening the scope of salva- 
tion, by taking more seriously the burden of social evil, 
and by learning to believe in the Kingdom of God. The 
proclamation of the social gospel would evoke the pro- 
phetic spirit in the exponents of doctrinal theology. 
Then they would have to seek boldness and authority 
from the living spirit of God. Theology has a right to 
the forward look and to the fire of religious vision. 



In these introductory chapters my aim is to win the 
benevolent and serious attention of conservative readers 
for the discussions that are to follow. I have thus far 
tried to show that the spread of the social gospel will in- 
evitably react on theology, and that this influence is likely 
to be constructive and salutary. Let us add the impor- 
tant fact that the social gospel imports into theology 
nothing that is new or alien. 

Frequent attempts have been made in the history of 
our rehgion to blend alien elements with it. The early 
Gnostics and the mediaeval Albigenses, for instance, tried 
to combine historical Christianity with dualistic concep- 
tions of the universe and strict asceticism. Modern 
Mormonism, Theosophy, and Christian Science represent 
syncx-etistic formations, minglings of genuine Christian- 
ity with new and alien elements. 

The belief in the universal reign of law, the doctrine 
of evolution, the control of nature by man, and the value 
of education and liberty as independent goods, — these 
are among the most influential convictions of modern 
life and have deeply modified our religious thought. But 
they are novel elements in theology. They are not alien, 
but certainly they held no such controlling position in the 
theology of the past as they do with us. We may dis- 



cover prophetic forecasts of them in the Bible, but we 
have to look for them. 

On the other hand the idea of the redemption of the 
social organism is nothing alien. It is simply a proper 
part of the Christian faith in redemption from sin and 
evil. As soon as the desire for salvation becomes strong 
and intelligent enough to look beyond the personal sins 
of the individual, and to discern how our personality in 
its intake and output is connected with the social groups 
to which we belong, the problem of social redemption is 
before us and we can never again forget it. It lies like 
a larger concentric circle around a smaller one. It is 
related to our intimate personal salvation like astronomy 
to physics. Only spiritual and intellectual immaturity 
have kept us from seeing it clearly before. The social 
gospel is not an alien element in theology. 

Neither is it novel. The social gospel is, in fact, the 
oldest gospel of all. It is " built on the foundation of the 
apostles and prophets." Its substance is the Hebrew 
faith which Jesus himself held. If the prophets ever 
talked about the " plan of redemption," they meant the 
social redemption of the nation. So long as John the 
Baptist and Jesus were proclaiming the gospel, the King- 
dom of God was its central word, and the ethical teach- 
ing of both, which was their practical commentary and 
definition of the Kingdom idea, looked toward a higher 
social order in which new ethical standards would become 
practicable. To the first generation of disciples the hope 
of the Lord's return meant the hope of a Christian social 
order on earth under the personal rule of Jesus Christ, 


and they would have been amazed if they had learned that 
this hope was to be motioned out of theology and other 
ideas substituted. 

The social gospel is nothing alien or novel. When it 
comes to a question of pedigree and birth-right, it may 
well turn on the dogmas on which the Catholic and Prot- 
estant theologies are based and inquire for their birth 
certificate. They are neither dominant in the New Tes- 
tament nor clearly defined in it. The more our historical 
investigations are laying bare the roots of Catholic 
dogma, the more do we see them running back into alien 
Greek thought, and not into the substance of Christ's 
message nor into the Hebrew faith. We shall not get 
away again from the central proposition of Harnack^ 
History of Dogma, that the development of Catholic 
dogma was the process of the Hellenization of Christian- 
ity ; in other words, that alien influences streamed into the 
religion of Jesus Christ and created a theology which he 
never taught nor intended. What would Jesus have said 
to the symbol of Chalcedon or the Athanasian Creed if 
they had been read to him ? 

The doctrine of the Kingdom of God was left unde- 
veloped by individualistic theology and finally mislaid by 
it almost completely, because it did not support nor fit in 
with that scheme of doctrine. In the older handbooks 
of theology it is scarcely mentioned, except in the chapters 
on eschatology; in none of them does it dominate the 
table of contents. What a spectacle, that the original 
teaching of our Lord has become an incongruous element 
in so-called evangelical theology, like a stranger with 
whom the other doctrines would not associate, and who 


was finally ejected because he had no wedding garment! 
In the same way the distinctive ethics of Jesus, which is 
part and parcel of his Kingdom doctrine, was long the 
hidden treasure of suppressed democratic sects. Now, 
as soon as the social gospel began once more to be 
preached in our own time, the doctrine of the Kingdom 
was immediately loved and proclaimed afresh, and the 
ethical principles of Jesus are once more taught without 
reservation as the only alternative for the greedy ethics of 
capitalism and militarism. These antipathies and affini- 
ties are a strong proof that the social gospel is neither 
alien nor novel, but is a revival of the earliest doctrines of 
Christianity, of its radical ethical spirit, and of its revo- 
lutionary consciousness. 

The body of ideas which we call the social gospel is 
not the product of a fad or temporary interest ; it is not an 
alien importation or a novel invention; it is the revival 
of the most ancient and authentic gospel, and the scientific 
unfolding of essential elements of Christian doctrine 
which have remained undeveloped all too long; the rise 
of the social gospel is not a matter of choice but of des- 
tiny ; the digestion of its ideas will exert a quickening and 
reconstructive influence on every part of theology. 

The verification of these propositions lies in the fu- 
ture. But I believe that a survey of the history of the- 
ology during the last hundred years would already cor- 
roborate the inevitableness and the fruitfulness of the 
essential ideas of the social gospel. The trend of theol- 
ogy has been this way, and wherever the social nature of 
Christianity has been clearly understood, a new under- 


standing for other theological problems has followed. 
The limits of this book do not permit such a survey, and 
I have not the accurate and technical knowledge of the 
literature of doctrinal theology to do justice to the sub- 
ject. It would be an attractive subject for a specialist to 
trace the genesis and progress of the social gospel in sys- 
tematic theology. The following paragraphs are simply 
by way of suggestion. 

So far as my observation of doctrinal handbooks goes, 
it seems that those writers whose minds were formed be- 
fore the eighties rarely show any clear comprehension of 
social points of view. We move in a different world of 
thought when we read their books. It would pay the 
reader to test this for himself by reading the table of 
contents and scanning crucial sections of any standard 
American theologian of the first half of the nineteenth 
century. The terms, the methods, the problems, and the 
guiding interests lie far away. If any social ideas do 
occur, they are most often the dutiful explanation of ideas 
derived from Hebrew religion. Those individuals of 
that era who did strike out into social conceptions of 
Christianity deserve the name and honour of prophets. 

Among the earlier German theologians Friedrich 
Schleiermacher, Richard Rothe, and Albrecht Ritschl 
seem to me to deserve that title. The constructive 
genius of Schleiermacher worked out solidaristic concep- 
tions of Christianity which were far ahead of his time. 
Ritschl built his essential ideas of the kingdom of evil 
and the Kingdom of God on Schleiermacher's work, and 
stressed the teaching of Luther that our service to God 
consists, not in religious performances, but in the faith- 


f ul work we do in our secular calling. The practical im- 
portance of these elements of Ritschl's theology is proved 
by the strong social spirit pervading the younger Ritschl- 
ian school. The moderate liberals grouped in the 
" Evangelisch-soziale Kongress " and organized as 
" Freunde der Christlichen Welt " and " Freunde evan- 
gelischer Freiheit '' all have social orientation. Pro- 
fessor Herrmann and Professor Troeltsch have definitely 
faced the relation between systematic theology and the 
social task of Christianity. The monumental work of 
Troeltsch, " die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen 
und Gruppen," is the first and chief attempt to apply 
the methods of the history of doctrine to the social con- 
victions and hopes of the Churches. Conservative the- 
ology is naturally less responsive to the newer influences. 
But the wonderful work of the " Innere Mission " since 
Wichern, and the social reconstruction of Germany, in 
which the conservative parts of the nation have taken a 
full share, have not left their conception of the mission 
of Christianity untouched. 

Switzerland democratizes whatever it handles. The 
** Religios-sozialen " in German Switzerland have more 
political radicalism and more religious enthusiasm for the 
doctrine of the Kingdom of God than the corresponding 
German groups. They have done thorough and inspiring 
work on the combination of social and theological ideas, 
especially Ragaz, Kutter, Matthieu, Benz, and Rein- 

Social and democratic idealism is one of the most ac- 
tive ingredients in Catholic Modernism. The French 
Protestants, though they number only about 700,000, 


have produced a social and socialist literature of a rich- 
ness and maturity which puts our greater numbers to 
shame, and witnesses to the intellectual fertility of French 
life. Auguste Sabatier, Charles Secretan, Tomy Fallot, 
Wilfred Monod, Elie Gounelle, and Paul Passy occur to 
me among those who have given doctrinal formulation to 
the social gospel. 

Great Britain has been the foremost capitalistic nation 
for a century and a half. Its religion and theology have 
necessarily matched its individualistic political economy 
and political philosophy. When the early Christian So- 
cialists, Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kings- 
ley, first asserted solidaristic ideas on theology and social 
questions, they justly felt that they were preaching a new 
and prophetic gospel in the midst of a Babylon of com- 
petitive selfishness. The trend of things is strikingly 
brought out by the contrast between their lonely position 
in the revolutionary year of 1848 and the Anglican Con- 
gress of 1908, where Christian Socialism was in posses- 
sion of the platform and only Lord Cecil made a stand 
against it. It is significant that, so far as the social gos- 
pel is concerned, the High Church section has become 
Broad, and some of its intellectual leaders are weaving 
solidaristic ideas into their most sacramental and eccle- 
siastical doctrines. At the same time the Free Church 
leaders have worked their way out of individualistic 
Evangelicalism, and are freely applying their heritage of 
democratic faith to the social problems. 

Of course I am not now discussing the popular propa- 
ganda of social Christianity, nor the growth of organiza- 
tions for its practical application, but simply the reaction 


of the social gospel on doctrinal theology.^ In our coun- 
try, many of the younger men in the North who have 
written on theology have shown that the problems of so- 
ciety are a vital concern with them, and their fresh theo- 
logical work consists largely in understanding the rela- 
tion between social life and religion. I am thinking of 
William A. Brown, John W. Buckham, William H. P. 
Faunce, Thomas B. Hall, Henry D. Hyde, Rufus Jones, 
Henry C. King, Shailer Mathews, Francis G. Peabody, 
Gerald B. Smith, George B. Stevens, and James B. 
Thomas, but I am sure this enumeration is very incom- 
plete. Some of the best work is done in the class rooms, 
and has not yet come out in print. 

When we contrast the neglect of the social contents of 
Christianity in former generations, and the fertile intel- 
lectual work now being given to this part of theology, a 
strong probability is established that the social gospel is 
not a passing interest, but that it is bound to become one 
of the permanent and commanding ingredients of theol- 

^ I sketched the Social Awakening in the Churches in the first 
part of " Christianizing the Social Order." But that was written 
in 1912. 



It remains now to pass in review the doctrines which 
would be affected by the social gospel and which ought 
to give more adequate expression to it. On some of the 
more speculative doctrines the social gospel has no con- 
tribution to make. Its interests lie on earth, within the 
social relations of the life that now is. It is concerned 
with the eradication of sin and the fulfilment of the mis- 
sion of redemption. The sections of theology which 
ought to express it effectively, therefore, are the doctrines 
of sin and redemption. 

The Christian consciousness of sin is the basis of all 
doctrines about sin. A serious and humble sense of sin- 
fulness is part of a religious view of life. Our conscious- 
ness of sin deepens as our moral insight matures and be- 
comes religious. When we think on the level of law or 
public opinion, we speak of crime, vice, bad habits, or de- 
fective character. When our mind is in the attitude of 
religion, we pray : " Create in me a clean heart, O God, 
and renew a right spirit within me." When a man is 
within the presence and consciousness of God, he sees 
himself and his past actions and present conditions in the 
most searching light and in eternal connections. To lack 
the consciousness of sin is a symptom of moral immatur- 



ity or of an effort to keep the shutters down and the light 
out. The most highly developed individuals, v^ho have 
the power of interpreting life for others, and who have 
the clearest realization of possible perfection and the 
keenest hunger for righteousness, also commonly have the 
most poignant sense of their own shortcomings. 

By our very nature we are involved in tragedy. In 
childhood and youth we have imperious instincts and de- 
sires to drive us, and little knowledge to guide and control 
us. We commit acts of sensuality, cruelty, or dishonour, 
which nothing can wipe from our memory. A child is 
drawn into harmful habits which lay the foundation for 
later failings, and which may trip the man again when 
his powers begin to fail in later life. How many men 
and women have rushed with the starry eyes of hope into 
relations which brought them defilement of soul and the 
perversion of their most intimate life, but from which 
they could never again extricate themselves by any 
wrench. " Forgive us our trespasses. Lead us not into 
temptation." The weakness or the stubbornness of our 
will and the tempting situations of life combine to weave 
the tragic web of sin and failure of which we all make 
experience before we are through with our years. 

Any religious tendency or school of theology must be 
tested by the question whether it does justice to the re- 
ligious consciousness of sin. Now, one cause of distrust 
against the social gospel is that its exponents often fail 
to show an adequate appreciation of the power and guilt 
of sin. Its teachings seem to put the blame for wrong- 
doing on the environment, and instead of stiffening and 


awakening the sense of responsibility in the individual, it 
teaches him to unload it on society. 

There is doubtless truth in this accusation. The em- 
phasis on environment and on the contributory guilt of 
the community, does offer a chance to unload responsi- 
bility, and human nature is quick to seize the chance. 
But the old theology has had its equivalents for environ- 
ment. Men unloaded on original sin, on the devil, and 
on the decrees of God. Adam began soon after the fall 
to shift the blame. This shiftiness seems to be one of 
the clearest and most universal effects of original sin. 

Moreover, there is an unavoidable element of moral 
unsettlement whenever the religious valuation of sin is 
being reconsidered. Paul frequently and anxiously de- 
fended his gospel against the charge that his principle of 
liberty invited lawlessness, and that under it a man might 
even sin the more in order to give grace the greater chance. 
We know what the Hebrew prophets thought of the sac- 
rificial cult and moral righteousness, but we are not in- 
formed about the unsettling effect which their teaching 
may have had. If we could raise up some devout priest 
of the age of Amos or Isaiah to give us his judgment on 
the theology of the prophets, he would probably assure us 
that these men doubtless meant well, but that they had no 
adequate sense of sin; they belittled the sacrifices insti- 
tuted by Moses ; but sacrificing, as all men knew, was the 
true expression and gauge of repentance. 

In the early years of the Reformation, Catholic ob- 
servers noted a distressing looseness in the treatment of 
sin. Men no longer searched their consciences in the 
confessional; they performed no works of j)enance to 


render satisfaction to God and to prove their contrition; 
they no longer used the ascetic means of holiness to'sub- 
due their flesh and to gain victory over the powers of 
darkness. Luther had taught them that God required 
nothing but faith, and that all accounts could be squared 
by agreeing to call them square. By any standard of 
measurement known to Catholics, the pro founder con- 
sciousness of sin was with the old theology and its prac- 
tical applications. In point of fact, the Reformation did 
upset the old means of moral control and did create wide- 
spread demoralization. But in time, Geneva, Holland, or 
Scotland showed a deeper consciousness of sin than Rome 
or Paris. The sense of sin found new outlets. 

The delinquencies of a new movement are keenly ob- 
served because they are new ; the shortcomings of an old 
system are part of the accepted scheme of life. If the 
exponents of the old theology have taught humanity an 
adequate consciousness of sin, how is it that they them- 
selves have been blind and dumb on the master iniquities 
of human history? During all the ages while they were 
the theological keepers of the conscience of Christendom, 
the peasants in the country and the working class in the 
cities were being sucked dry by the parasitic classes of 
society, and war was damning poor humanity. Yet what 
traces are there in traditional theology that the minds of 
old-line theologians were awake to these magnificent man- 
ifestations of the wickedness of the human heart? How 
is it that only in the modern era, since the moral insight 
of mankind has to some extent escaped from the tuition 
of the old theology, has a world-wide social movement 
arisen to put a stop to the exploitation of the poor, and 


that only in the last three years has war been realized as 
the supreme moral evil? One of the culminating accu- 
sations of Jesus against the theological teachers of his 
time was that they strained at gnats and swallowed 
camels, judiciously laying the emphasis on the minor sins 
and keeping silence on the profitable major wrongs. It is 
possible to hold the orthodox doctrine on the devil and not 
recognize him when we meet him in a real estate office 
or at the stock exchange. 

A health officer of Toronto told me a story which illus- 
trates the consciousness of sin created by the old religious 
teaching. If milk is found too dirty, the cans are emptied 
and marked with large red labels. This hits the farmer 
where he lives. He may not care about the health of 
Toronto, but he does care for the good opinion of his 
own neighbourhood, and when he drives to the station and 
finds his friends chuckling over the red labels on his cans, 
it acts as a moral irritant. One day a Mennonite farmer 
found his cans labeled and he swore a worldly oath. The 
Mennonites are a devout people who take the teachings 
of Christ seriously and refuse to swear, even in law- 
courts. This man was brought before his church and ex- 
cluded. But, mark well, not for introducing cow-dung 
into the intestines of babies, but for expressing his belief 
in the damnation of the wicked in a non-theological way. 
When his church will hereafter have fully digested the 
social gospel, it may treat the case this way : " Our 
brother was angry and used the name of God profanely 
in his anger ; we urge him to settle this alone with God. 
But he has also defiled the milk supply by unclean meth- 
ods. Having the life and health of young children in 


his keeping, he has failed in his trust. Voted, that he be 
excluded until he has proved his lasting repentance.'* 
The result would be the same, but the sense of sin would 
do its work more intelligently. 

In his " Appeal to the Christian Nobility," Luther said 
that in consequence of the many fast days and the insist- 
ence of the priests on their observance, the people had 
come to a point where they regarded it as a greater sin 
to eat butter on a fast day than to lie, swear, or commit 
fornicajion. An eminent minister in New York enumer- 
ated as the chief marks of a Christian that he attends 
church, reads the Bible, and contributes to the support of 
public worship. A less eminent minister in the same 
place mentioned as the four sins from which a Christian 
must abstain, drinking, dancing, card playing, and going 
to the movies. And this in New York where the capital- 
istic system of the nation comes to a head ! 

It may well be that with some individuals there is a 
loss of seriousness in the sense of sin as a result of the 
social gospel. But on the whole the result consists 
chiefly in shifting the emphasis and assigning a new valu- 
ation to different classes of sins. Attention is concen- 
trated on questions of public morality, on wrongs done 
by whole classes or professions of men, on sins which en- 
ervate and submerge entire mill towns or agricultural 
states. These sins have been side-stepped by the old the- 
ology. We now have to make up for a fatal failure in 
past teaching. 

We feel a deep consciousness of sin when we realize 
that we have wasted our years, dissipated our energies, 
left our opportunities unused, frustrated the grace of 


God, and dwarfed and shamed the personahty which God 
intended when he called us into life. It is a similar and 
even deeper misery to realize that our past life has hurt 
and blocked the Kingdom of God, the sum of all good, 
the essential aim of God himself. Our duty to the King- 
dom of God is on a higher level than all other duties. 
To aid it is the supreme joy. To have failed it by our 
weakness, to have hampered it by our ignorance, to have 
resisted its prophets, to have contradicted its truths, to 
have denied it in time of danger, to have betrayed it for 
thirty pieces of silver, — this is the most poignant con- 
sciousness of sin. The social gospel opens our eyes to 
the ways in which religious men do all these things. It 
plunges us in a new baptism of repentance. 



We are familiar with the teachings of traditional the- 
ology on the first entrance of sin into the life of the race : 
the state of innocence of our first parents ; the part played 
by Satan in tempting them; the motives and experiences 
of the fall; the apostasy of the entire race through the 
disobedience of its head; the transmission of depravity 
and death to all ; the imputation of Adam's guilt to all his 
descendants ; the ruin of the divine plan for humanity by 
the perversity of sin. 

The motives of theology in elaborating so fully an 
event so remote were partly philosophical and partly re- 

The philosophical motive was the desire for a coherent 
explanation of our universe and its present bafifling m^ix- 
ture of good and evil. The story of the fall, as inter- 
preted by theology, furnished an outline for a philosoph- 
ical history of the race. It was the first act in a great 
racial tragedy which was to end with the final judgment. 
The fact that a mind like Milton's took the fall as the 
theme for a great epic, and that his poem was accepted 
as a poetic treatment of the highest realities, shows how 
the doctrine of the fall dominated common thought. 

The religious motive in elaborating the doctrine of the 
fall was the desire to bring all men under conviction of 



sin and condemnation in order that all might realize their 
need of grace and salvation. There was no need to prove 
the guilt of any one individual when all were in a state 
of corruption. It was not a question of this act or that, 
but of the state of apostasy from which all acts proceeded 
and by which even our virtues are contaminated. The 
terribleness of sin became clear only by scanning the 
height from which man had fallen. He once had a pure 
consciousness of God; he now has a mind darkened by 
sin and unable to know God. He had a will set on holi- 
ness ; he now has a will set on evil and rebellion. He had 
love of goodness, harmony of the higher and lower pow- 
ers, freedom from suffering, power over nature, and the 
grace of God. He lost it all. Consequently he is unable 
to save himself. Only the grace of God can save him. 
We can see this religious motive at work in the great the- 
ologians of sin and grace, Paul, Augustine, Luther, and 
Calvin. They abased man to glorify God's mercy. They 
took away all *' boasting." They shut all doors on the 
prisoner of sin except the door of grace in order to com- 
pel him to emerge through that. 

It is important to realize that the story of the fall is in- 
comparably more fundamental in later theology than it 
was in biblical thought. The conspicuous place given to 
Genesis in the arrangement of the Hebrew canon, itself 
concentrated the attention of later times on it. The story 
now embodied in Genesis iii was part of the Jahvist nar- 
rative, a document of Ephraimitic origin dating back to 
the ninth century B.C. The original purpose of the story 
was not to explain the origin of sin, but the origin of 


death and evil. There are scarcely any allusions to the 
story in the Old Testament. The prophets were deeply 
conscious of the sins of men, but they did not base their 
teachings on the doctrine of the fall. Not till we reach 
post-biblical Jewish theology is there any general interest 
in the story of Adam's fall. Even then the story of the 
fall of the angels in Genesis vi attracted more interest. 

In the synoptic sayings of Jesus there is not even a 
reference to the fall of Adam. In the fourth gospel 
there is one allusion, (John viii, 44). Jesus, of course, 
had the clearest consciousness of the chasm between the 
will of God and the actual condition of mankind. The 
universality of sin was a matter of course with him ; it was 
presupposed in all his teaching. But he was concerned 
only with those sources of sin which he saw in active work 
about him: first, the evil heart of man from which all 
evil words and actions proceed ; second, the social stum- 
bling blocks of temptation which make the weak to fall ; 
and third, the power of the Kingdom of Evil. On the 
other hand the first origin of evil seems to have been 
so distant in his mind that it did not readily slip into any 
discussions of sin which are preserved to us. His inter- 
est was practical and not speculative, religious and ethical 
and not philosophical. 

Not until we come to Paul do we find any full and 
serious use of the story of the fall in the Bible. He twice 
(Romans v and I Corinthians xv) set over against each 
other the carnal humanity descended from Adam and 
characterized by sin and mortality, and the spiritual hu- 
manity descended from Christ and characterized by holi- 
ness and eternal life. These passages belong to the theo- 


logical portions of Paul's writings and were eagerly 
seized by the patristic writers as congenial raw material 
for their work. ^ 

When once theology concentrated on the story it was 
expanded by exegetical inferences, by allegorical embel- 
lishments, and by typology, until it conveyed far more 
than it actually contained. It comes as a shock to real- 
ize, for instance, that the story in Genesis itself does 
not indicate that the writer understood the serpent to be 
Satan, or Satan to be speaking through the serpent. 
Moreover, we find so few traces of any belief in Satan 
in Hebrew thought before the Exile that it seems doubt- 
ful if contemporary readers would have understood him 
to be meant unless further indications made the refer- 
ence clear. 

Here, then, we have two different methods of treat- 
ing the story of the fall. Theology has given it basic 
importance. It has built its entire scheme of thought 
on the doctrine of the fall. Jesus and the prophets paid 
little or no attention to it. They were able to see sin 
clearly and to fight it with the highest energy without 
depending on the doctrine of the fall for a footing. 
Only with Paul is the story clearly of religious import- 
ance, and even with him it is not as central as for in- 
stance the antagonism between spirit and flesh. It of- 
fered him a wide spiritual perspective and a means of 
glorifying Christ. 

Two things seem to follow. First, that the tradi- 
tional doctrine of the fall is the product of speculative 
interest mainly, and that the most energetic conscious- 
ness of sin can exist without drawing strength from this 


doctrine. Second, that if the substance of Scriptural 
thought, the constant and integral trend of biblical con- 
victions, is the authoritative element in the Bible, the 
doctrine of the fall does not seem to have as great an 
authority as it has long exercised. 

How does this affect the "special gospel ? What doc- 
trinal teaching on this point is able to give it the most 
effective backing? 

The social gospel is above all things practical. It 
needs religious ideas which will release energy for heroic 
opposition against organized evil and for the building 
of a righteous social life. It would find entire satisfac- 
tion in the attitude of Jesus and the prophets who dealt 
with sin as a present force and did not find it necessary 
to indoctrinate men on its first origin. It would have 
no motive to be interested in a doctrine which diverts at- 
tention from the active factors of sin which can be influ- 
enced, and concentrates attention on a past event which 
no effort of ours can influence. 

Theology has made the catastrophe of the fall so 
complete that any later addition to the inheritance of sin 
seems slight and negligible. What can be worse than a 
state of total depravity and active enmity against God 
and his will ? ^ Consequently theology has had little to 
say about the contributions which our more recent fore- 

iThe Helvetic Confession, II, Chapter 8: "We understand 
original sin to be the native corruption of man which has passed 
from our first parents to us; through which, being sunk in de- 
praved desires, averse to good, inclined to every evil, full of every 
wickedness, of contempt and hatred of God, we are unable to do 
or even to think any good whatever." 


fathers have made to the sin and misery of mankind. 
The social gospel would rather reserve some blame for 
them, for their vices have afflicted us with syphilis, their 
graft and their wars have loaded us with public debts, 
and their piety has perpetuated despotic churches and un- 
believable creeds. One of the greatest tasks in religious 
education reserved for the social gospel is to spread in 
society a sense of the solidarity of successive genera- 
tions and a sense of responsibility for those who are to 
come after us and whom we are now outfitting with 
the fundamental conditions of existence. This is one 
of the sincerest and most durable means of spiritual re- 
straint. It is hard to see how the thought of Adam and 
Eve can very directly influence young men and women 
who are to be the ancestors of new generations. In so 
far as the doctrine of the fall has made all later actions 
of negligible importance by contrast, it blocks the way 
for an important advance in the consciousness of sin. 

The traditional doctrine of the fall has taught us to 
regard evil as a kind of unvarying racial endowment, 
which is active in every new life and which can be over- 
come only by the grace offered in the Gospel and min- 
istered by the Church. It would strengthen the appeal 
of the social gospel if evil could be regarded instead 
as a variable factor in the life of humanity, which it is 
our duty to diminish for every young life and for every 
new generation. 

These, it seems to me, are the points at which the 
social gospel impinges on the doctrine of the fall of man. 

Of course evolutionary thought has radically changed 
the conceptions about the origin of the race for those 


whose thinking is done under the influence of evolution- 
ary science. Such will take little interest in the discus- 
sion of this chapter. But there are many conservative 
minds who can not recast their thought in wholly new 
moulds; the story of the fall is a serious religious and 
intellectual burden to some of them. The more theology 
bases all its reasoning on the doctrine of the fall, the 
greater is the collapse and mental distress when a man 
comes to realize that the biblical story of the fall will 
not bear the tremendous weight which the theological sys- 
tem of the past has put upon it. For such the attitude 
suggested in this chapter seems to offer a way which is 
satisfying to both the religious and the scientific con- 
science. They can not be going far wrong if they take 
the attitude taken by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus 
himself, concentrating their energies on the present and 
active sources of evil and leaving the question of the first 
origin of evil to God. On that basis it is possible to 
preach both an individualistic and a social gospel with 
full effectiveness. 



It is not easy to define sin, for sin is as elastic and 
complicated as life itself. Its quality, degree, and culpa- 
bility vary according to the moral intelligence and^ma- 
turity of the individual, according to his social free- 
dom, and his power over others. Theologians have 
erred, it seems to me, by fitting their definitions to the 
most highly developed forms of sin and then spreading 
them over germinal and semi-sinful actions and con- 

We are equipped with powerful appetites. We are 
often placed in difficult situations, which constitute over- 
whelming temptations. We are all relatively ignorant, 
and while we experiment with life, we go astray. Some 
of our instincts may become rampant and overgrown, 
and then trample on our inward freedom. We are 
gifted with high ideals, with a wonderful range of pos- 
sibilities, with aspiration and longing, and also weighted 
with inertia and moral incapacity to achieve. We are 
keenly alive to the call of the senses and the pleasures 
of the moment, and only dimly and occasionally con- 
scious of our own higher destiny, of the mystic value of 
personality in others, and of God. 

This sensual equipment, this ignorance and inertia, 
out of which our moral delinquencies sprout, are part 



of our human nature. We did not order it so. Instead 
of increasing our guilt, our make-up seems to entitle us 
to the forbearing judgment of every onlooker, especially 
God. Yet no doubt we are involved in objective wrong 
and evil ; we frustrate our possibilities ; we injure others ; 
we disturb the divine harmonies. We are unfree, un- 
happy, conscious of a burden which we are unable to lift 
or escape. 

Sin becomes guilt in the full sense in the degree in 
which intelligence and will enter. We have the impulse 
to live our life, to exercise our freedom, to express and 
satisfy the limitless cravings in us, and we are impatient 
of restraint. We know that our idleness or sensuality 
will cripple our higher self, yet we want what we want. 
We set our desires against the rights of others, and dis- 
regard the claims of mercy, of gratitude, or of parental 
love. Our self-love is wrought up to hot ill-will, hate, 
lying, slander, and malevolence. Men press their covet- 
ousness to the injury of society. They are willing~7o 
frustrate the cause of liberty and social justice in whole 
nations in order to hold their selfish social and economic 
privileges. Men who were powerful enough to do so, 
have left broad trails of destruction and enslavement 
through history in order to satisfy their selfish caprice, 
avarice, and thirst for glory. 

Two things strike us as we thus consider the develop- 
ment of sin from its cotyledon leaves to its blossom and 
fruit. First, that the element of selfishness emerges as 
the character of sin matures. Second, that in the higher 
forms of sin it assumes the aspect of a conflict between 
the selfish Ego and the common good of humanity; or. 


expressing it in religious terms, it becomes a conflict 
between self and God. 

The three forms of sin, — sensuousness, selfishness, 
and godlessness, — are ascending and expanding stages, 
in which we sin against our higher self, against the good 
of men, and against the universal good. 

Theology with remarkable unanimity has discerned 
that sin is essentially selfishness. This is an ethical and 
social definition, and is proof of the unquenchable social 
spirit of Christianity. It is more essentially Christian 
than the dualistic conception of the Greek Fathers, who 
thought of sin as fundamentally sensuousness and ma- 
teriality, and saw the chief consequence of the fall in the 
present reign of death rather than in the reign of selfish- 

The definition of sin as selfishness furnishes an ex- 
cellent theological basis for a social conception of sin 
and salvation. But the social gospel can contribute a 
good deal to socialize and vitalize it. 

Theology pictures the self-affirmation of the sinner 
as a sort of solitary duel of the will between him and 
God. We get a mental image of God sitting on his 
throne in glory, holy and benevolent, and the sinner 
down below, sullenly shaking his fist at God while he 
repudiates the divine will and chooses his own. Now, 
in actual life such titanic rebellion against the Almighty 
is rare. Perhaps our Puritan forefathers knew more 
cases than we because their theological God was accus- 
tomed to issue arbitrary decrees which invited rebellion. 
We do not rebel; we dodge and evade. We kneel in 


lowly submission and kick our duty under the bed while 
God is not looking. 

The theological definitions of sin have too much the 
flavour of the monarchical institutions under the spirit- 
ual influence of which they were first formed. In an 
absolute monarchy the first duty is to bow to the royal 
will. A man may spear peasants or outrage their wives, 
but crossing the king is another matter. When theo- 
logical definitions speak of rebellion against God as the 
common characteristic of all sin, it reminds one of the 
readiness of despotic governments to treat every offence 
as treason. 

Sin is not a private transaction between the sinner 
and God. Humanity always crowds the audience-room 
when God holds court. We must democratize the con- 
ception of God; then the definition of sin will become 
more realistic. 

We love and serve God when we love and serve our 
fellows, whom he loves and in whom he lives. We rebel 
against God and repudiate his will when w^e set our profit 
and ambition above the welfare of our fellow^s and above 
the Kingdom of God which binds them together. 

We rarely sin against God alone. The decalogue 
gives a simple illustration of this. Theology used to 
distinguish between the first and second table of the 
decalogue ; the first enumerated the sins against God and 
the second the sins against men. Jesus took the Sabbath 
commandment off the first table and added it to the 
second; he said the Sabbath is not a taboo day of God, 
but an institution for the good of man. The command 
to honour our parents is also ethical. There remain 


the first three commandments, against polytheism, image 
worship, and the misuse of the holy name. The wor- 
ship of various gods and the use of idols is no longer 
one of our dangers. The misuse of the holy name has 
lost much of its religious significance since sorcery and 
magic have moved to the back-streets. On the other 
hand, the commandments of the second table grow more 
important all the time. Science supplies the means of 
killing, finance the methods of stealing, the newspapers 
have learned how to bear false witness artistically to a 
globeful of people daily, and covetousness is the moral 
basis of our civilization. 

God is not only the spiritual representative of hu- 
manity; he is identified with it. In him we live and 
move and have our being. In us he lives and moves, 
though his being transcends ours. He is the life and 
light in every man and the mystic bond that unites us all. 
He is the spiritual power behind and beneath all our 
aspirations and achievements. He works through hu- 
manity to realize his purposes, and our sins block and 
destroy the Reign of God in which he might fully reveal 
and realize himself. Therefore our sins against the 
least of our fellow-men in the last resort concern God. 
Therefore when we retard the progress of mankind, we 
retard the revelation of the glory of God. Our uni- 
verse is not a despotic monarchy, with God above the 
starry canopy and ourselves down here; it is a spiritual 
commonwealth with God in the midst of us. 

We are on Christian ground when we insist on put- 
ting humanity into the picture. Jesus always deliber- 
ately and energetically bound man and God together. 


He would not let us deal with man apart from God, nor 
with God apart from man. We can not have forgive- 
ness from God while we refuse forgiveness to any man. 
" What ye have done to these, ye have done to me ; what 
ye have not done to these, ye have not done to me.'* 
This identification of the interests of God and man is 
characteristic of the religion of Jesus. Wherever God 
is isolated, we drop back to a pre-Christian stage of 

Sin is essentially selfishness. That definition is more 
in harmony with the social gospel than with any indi- 
vidualistic type of religion. The sinful mind, then, is 
the unsocial and anti-social mind. To find the climax 
of sin we must not linger over a man who swears, or 
sneers at religion, or denies the mystery of the trinity, 
but put our hands on social groups who have turned the 
jpatrimony of a nation into the private property of a 
small class, or have left the peasant labourers cowed, 
degraded, demoralized, and without rights in the land.^ 
When we find such in history, or in present-day life, 
we shall know we have struck real rebellion against God 
on the higher levels of sin. 

We have defined sin. But we need more than defini- 
tion. We need realization of its nature in order to 
secure the right religious attitude toward it. 

Sin is always revealed by contrast to righteousness. 
We get an adequate intellectual measure of it and feel 

II have just been reading "The Secret of Rural Depopulation," 
an account of the condition of the agricultural laborers in England, 
by Lieut-Col. D. C. Pedder, 1904. Fabian Tract No. 118. The 
Fabian Society, 3 Clement's Inn, Strand, W. C, London. 


the proper hate and repugnance for it only when we see 
it as the terrible defeat and frustration of a great good 
which we love and desire. 

Theology has tried to give us such a realization of 
sin by elaborating the contrast between the sinless con- 
dition of Adam before the fall and his sinful condition 
after it. But there are objections to this. In the first 
place of course we do not know whether Adam was as 
perfect as he is portrayed. Theology has ante-dated 
conceptions of human perfection which we have derived 
from Jesus Christ and has converted Adam into a per- 
fect Christian. Paul does nothing of the kind. In the 
second place, any interpretation of the nature of sin 
taken from Adam will be imperfect, because Adam's 
situation gave very limited opportunities for selfishness, 
which is the essence of sin. He had no scope to exhibit 
either the virtues or the sinful vices which come out in 
the pursuits of commerce or politics. The only persons 
with whom he could associate were God, Eve, and Satan. 
Consequently theology lacked all social details in de- 
scribing his condition before and after the fall. It could 
only ascribe to him the virtues of knowing and loving 
God and of having no carnal concupiscence, and, by 
contrast, after the fall he lost the love and knowledge of 
God and acquired carnal desires. Thus a fatal turn 
toward an individualistic conception of sin was given to 
theology through the solitariness of Adam. 

A better and more Christian method of getting a re- 
ligious realization of sin is to bring before our minds 
the positive ideals of social righteousness contained in 
the person of Christ and in the Kingdom of God, and 


see sin as the treasonable force which frustrates and 
wrecks these ideals and despoils the earth of their enjoy- 
ment. It is Christ who convicts the world of sin and 
not Adam. The spiritual perfection of Jesus consists 
in the fact that he was so simply and completely filled 
with the love of God and man that he gave himself to 
the task of the Kingdom of God without any reservation 
or backsliding. This is the true standard of holiness. 
The fact that a man is too respectable to get drunk or to 
swear is no proof of his righteousness. His moral and 
religious quality must be measured by the intelligence 
and single-heartedness with which he merges his will 
and life in the divine purpose of the Kingdom of God. 
By contrast, a man's sinfulness stands out in its true 
proportion, not when he is tripped up by ill-temper or 
side-steps into shame, but when he seeks to establish a 
private kingdom of self-service and is ready to thwart 
and defeat the progress of mankind toward peace, to- 
ward justice, or toward a fraternal organization of 
economic life, because that would diminish his political 
privileges, his unearned income, and his power over the 
working classes. « 

It follows that a clear realization of the nature of 
sin depends on a clear vision of the Kingdom of God. 
We can not properly feel and know the reign of or- 
ganized wrong now prevailing unless we constantly see 
it over against the reign of organized righteousness. 
Where the religious conception of the Kingdom of God 
is wanting, men will be untrained and unfit to see or to 
estimate the social manifestations of sin. 


This proposition gives a solemn and terrible impor- 
tance to the fact that doctrinal theology has failed to 
cherish and conserve for humanity the doctrine of the 
Kingdom of God. Christ died for it. Theology has 
allowed it to lead a decrepit, bed-ridden and senile 
existence in that museum of antiquities which we call 
eschatology. Having lost its vision of organized right- 
eousness, theology necessarily lost its comprehension of 
organized sin, and therewith its right and power to act 
as the teacher of mankind on that subject. It saw 
private sin, and it set men to wrestling with their private 
doubts or sexual emotions by ascetic methods. But if 
sin is selfishness, how did that meet the case? 

It would be unfair to blame theology for the fact 
that our race is still submerged under despotic govern- 
ment, under war and militarism, under landlordism, and 
under predatory industry and finance. But we can 
justly blame it for the fact that the Christian Church 
even now has hardly any realization that these things 
are large-scale sins. We can blame it in part for the 
fact that when a Christian minister in our country speaks 
of these sins he is charged with forgetting the simple 
gospel of sin and salvation, and is in danger of losing 
his position. This comes of shelving the doctrine of the 
Kingdom of God, or juggling feeble substitutes into its 
place. Theology has not been a faithful steward of the 
truth entrusted to it. The social gospel is its accusing 

This is the chief significance of the social gospel for 
the doctrine of sin : it revives the vision of the Kingdom 
of God. When men see the actual world over against 


the religious ideal, they become conscious of its con- 
stitutional defects and wrongs. Those who do their 
thinking in the light of the Kingdom of God make less 
of heresy and private sins. They reserve their shudders 
for men who keep the liquor and vice trade alive against 
public intelligence and law; for interests that organize 
powerful lobbies to defeat tenement or factory legisla- 
tion, or turn factory inspection into sham; for nations 
that are willing to set the world at war in order to win 
or protect colonial areas of trade or usurious profit from 
loans to weaker peoples; and for private interests which 
are willing to push a peaceful nation into war because 
the stock exchange has a panic at the rumour of peace. 
These seem the unforgivable sins, the great demonstra- 
tions of rebellious selfishness, wherever the social gospel 
has revived the faith of the Kingdom of God. 

Two aspects of the Kingdom of God demand special 
consideration in this connection: the Kingdom is the 
realm of love, and it is the commonwealth of labour. 

Jesus Christ superimposed his own personality on the 
previous conception of God and made love the distinc- 
tive characteristic of God and the supreme law of human 
conduct. Consequently the reign of God would be the 
reign of love. It is not enough to think of the Kingdom 
as a prevalence of good will. The institutions of life 
must be fundamentally fraternal and co-operative if 
they are to train men to love their fellowmen as co- 
workers. Sin, being selfish, is covetous and grasping. 
It favours institutions and laws which permit unrestricted 
exploitation and accumulation. This in turn sets up 


antagonistic interests, increases law suits, class hostility, 
and wars, and so miseducates mankind that love and co- 
operation seem unworkable, and men are taught to put 
their trust in coercive control by the strong and in the 
sting of hunger and compulsion for the poor. 

Being the realm of love, the Kingdom of God must 
also be the commonwealth of co-operative labour, for 
how can we actively love others without serving their 
needs by our abilities? If the Kingdom of God is a 
community of highly developed personalities, it must 
also be an organization for labour, for none can realize 
himself fully without labour. A divinely ordered com- 
munity, therefore, would offer to all the opportunities of 
education and enjoyment, and expect from all their 
contribution of labour. 

Here again we realize the nature of sin over against 
the religious ideal of society. Sin selfishly takes from 
others their opportunities for self-reaHzation in order to 
increase its own opportunities abnormally; and it shirks 
its own labour and thereby abnormally increases the 
labour of others. Idleness is active selfishness; it is 
not only unethical, but a sin against the Kingdom of God. 
To lay a heavy burden of support on our fellows, usually 
on the weakest classes, and to do no productive labour 
in return, is so crude a manifestation of sinful selfishness 
that one would suppose only an occasional instance of 
such delinquency could be found, and only under medical 
treatment. But in fact throughout history the policy of 
most States has been shaped in order to make such a 
sinful condition easy and perpetual. Men who have 
been under the teachings of Christianity all their lives 


do not even see that parasitism is a sin. So deeply has 
our insight into sin been darkened by the lack of a re- 
ligious ideal of social life. Henry Drummond, who was 
one of the early prophets of the Kingdom idea, long ago 
pointed out that parasites are on the way to perdition, 
physically, intellectually, and morally. We shall not be 
doing our thinking in a Christian way until we agree 
that productive labour according to the ability of each 
is one of " the conditions of salvation." 

The accepted definition of sin as selfishness is there- 
fore wholly in line with the social gospel, and the latter 
can back up the old theology with impressive examples 
of high-power selfishness which seem to have been over- 
looked. They can hardly fail to create a more search- 
ing consciousness of sin in every Christian mind. In- 
deed, many a Christian man, surveying the chief am- 
bitions and results of his life in the light of the Kingdom 
of God, will have to begin his repentance over again and 
cry, Mea culpa. 

There is evangelistic force in this social comprehension 
of the nature of sin. It offers searching and unsettling 
arguments and appeals to evangelistic preachers. If pop- 
ular evangelists have not used them it can hardly be for 
lack of effectiveness. Is it because they are too efifective ? 

If theology absorbs this understanding of the nature 
of sin, it will become a strong intellectual support of the 
social gospel, and come into fuller harmony with the 
spirit of the prophets and of the teaching of Jesus. 
The social gospel is part of the " return to Christ." 



How is sin transmitted from generation to genera- 
tion? How is it made enduring and universal through- 
out the race? 

This is by no means an academic question. Theology 
ought to be the science of redemption and offer scientific 
methods for the eradication of sin. In dealing with any 
epidemic disease, the first thing is to isolate the bacillus, 
and the second to see how it propagates and spreads. 
We must inquire for the lines of communication and 
contagion by which sin runs vertically down through 
history, and horizontally through the strata of contem- 
porary society. 

Theology has dealt with this problem in the doctrine 
of original sin. Many modern theologians are ready to 
abandon this doctrine, and among laymen it seems to 
carry so little sense of reality that audiences often smile 
at its mention. I take pleasure, therefore, in defending 
it. It is one of the few attempts of individualistic the- 
ology to get a solidaristic view of its field of work. 
This doctrine views the race as a great unity, descended 
from a single head, and knit together through all ages 
by unity of origin and blood. This natural unity is the 



basis and carrier for the transmission and universality 
of sin. Depravity of will and corruption of nature are 
transmitted wherever life itself is transmitted. 

Science, to some extent, corroborates the doctrine of 
original sin. Evil does flow down the generations 
through the channels of biological coherence. Idiocy 
and feeble-mindedness, neurotic disturbances, weakness 
of inhibition, perverse desires, stubbornness and anti- 
social impulses in children must have had their adequate 
biological causes somewhere back on the line, even if we 
lack the records. 

Even in normal individuals the animal instincts pre- 
ponderate over the spiritual motives and restraints. All 
who have to train the young find themselves marshalling 
motives and forces to strengthen the higher desires 
against the drag of unwillingness. " The spirit is will- 
ing, but the flesh is weak,'* is a formula of Jesus. 
Paul's description of the struggle of flesh and spirit in 
his life is a classical expression of the tragedies enacted 
in the intimate life of every one who has tried to make his 
recalcitrant Ego climb the steep path of perfection: 
" The good which I would I do not ; but the evil which 
I would not, that I practise." 

According to orthodox theology man's nature passed 
through a fatal debasement at the beginning of history. 
According to evolutionary science the impulses connected 
with our alimentary and reproductive organs run far back 
in the evolution of the race and are well established and 
imperious, whereas the social, altruistic, and spiritual 
impulses are of recent development and relatively weak. 


We can take our choice of the explanations. In either 
case a faulty equipment has come down to us through the 
reproductive life of the race. 

There is, then, a substance of truth in this unpopular 
doctrine of original sin. But the old theology over- 
worked it. It tried to involve us in the guilt of Adam 
as well as in his debasement of nature and his punish- 
ment of death. It fixed on us all a uniform corruption, 
and made it so complete that all evil resulting from 
personal sins seems trivial and irrelevant. If our will 
is so completely depraved, where do we get the freedom 
on which alone responsibility can be based? If a child 
is by nature set on evil, hostile to God, and a child of the 
devil, what is the use of education? For education pre- 
supposes an appetite for good which only needs awaken- 
ing, direction, and spiritual support. 

The texts usually cited in support of the doctrine can 
not justly be made to bear such universal significance.^ 
The proof -text method, in trying to prove our original 
sin, has proved its own. The basic passage in Romans 
V, 12-21, is so difficult that even the exact methods of 
modern exegesis have not made Paul's meaning sure. 
Augustine based his influential argument on the Vulgate 
translation of verse 12, which is certainly faulty. 

Theology was right in emphasizing the biological 
transmission of evil on the basis of race solidarity, but 
it strained the back of the doctrine by overloading it. 
On the other hand, it slighted or overlooked the fact 

1 Gen. vi, 5 ; viii, 21 ; Psalms xiv, 1-3 ; li, 5 ; Iviii, 3 ; Isaiah xlviii, 8; 
John ill, 5-6; Romans v, 12-14; Eph. ii, 3. 


that sin is transmitted along the lines of social tradition. 
This channel is at least as important as the other and far 
more susceptible of religious influence and control. 
Original sin deals with dumb forces of nature; social 
tradition is ethical and may be affected by conscious 
social action. Only the lack of social information and 
orientation in the past can explain the fact that theology 
has made so little of this. 

The evil habits of boyhood, — lying, stealing, cigarette 
smoking, profane and obscene talk, self -pollution, — are 
usually set up in boys by the example and social suasion 
of boys just one stage older than they, young enough to 
be trusted companions, and old enough to exercise au- 
thority. One generation corrupts the next. 

The permanent vices and crimes of adults are not 
transmitted by heredity, but by being socialized; for in- 
stance, alcoholism and all drug evils; cruel sports, such 
as bull-fights and pugilism; various forms of sex per- 
versity; voluntary deformities, such as foot-binding, 
corseting, piercing of ears and nose; blood-feuds in 
Corsica; lynching in America. Just as syphilitic cor- 
ruption is forced on the helpless foetus in its mother's 
womb, so these hereditary social evils are forced on the 
individual embedded in the womb of society and draw- 
ing his ideas, moral standards, and spiritual ideals from 
the general life of the social body. 

That sin is lodged in social customs and institutions 
and is absorbed by the individual from his social group 
is so plain that any person with common sense can ob- 
serve it, but I have found only a few, even among the 
modern hand-books of theology, which show a clear 


recognition of the theological importance of this fact.^ 
The social gospel has from the first emphasized it, and 
our entire religious method of dealing with children, 
adolescents, students, industrial and professional groups, 
and neighbourhoods, is being put on a different basis in 
consequence of this new insight. Systematic theology 
is not running even with practical theology at this point. 
A theology for the social gospel would have to say that 
original sin is partly social. It runs down the genera- 
tions not only by biological propagation but also by social 

Theologians sometimes dispatch this matter easily as 
*' the force of evil example." There is much more in it. 
We deal here not only with the instinct of imitation, but 
with the spiritual authority of society over its members. 

In the main the individual takes over his moral judg- 
ments and valuations from his social class, profession, 
neighbourhood, and nation, making only slight personal 
modifications in the group standards. Only earnest or 
irresponsible persons are likely to enter into any serious 

* O. Kirn, " Grundriss der evangelischen Dogmatik," p. 82 : 
" Heredity is not the only channel through which sin is spread 
and increased. Defective education, evil example, and the direct 
incitement to sin by unjust treatment or seduction, are of at least 
equal importance. The sin that we inherit is only a fragment of 
the totality of sin existing in the race. We ought especially to 
replace the theological conception of hereditary guilt by the realiza- 
tion of the fact that guilt attaches not only to the individual, but 
that there is a common guilt of social groups in widening circles, 
till we reach the guilt of the whole race for the moral conditions 
pervading all humanity." See also Clarke, " Outline of Christian 
Theology," pp. 218-221 ; Brown, " Christian Theology in Outline," 
p. 278; Pfleiderer, "Grundriss der christHchen Glaubens-und Sitten- 
lehre," p. 122. 


Opposition or contradiction, and then often on a single 
matter only, which exhausts their power of opposition. 
The deep marks which such a struggle with our group, 
especially in youth, leaves on our memory shows how 
hard it was at the time. 

A group may be better or worse than a given member 
in it. It may require more neatness, fortitude, efficiency, 
and hard work than he is accustomed to. In that case 
the boy entering a good shop or a fine college fraternity 
is very promptly educated upward. On the other hand, 
if a group practises evil, it will excuse or idealize it, 
and resent any private judgment which condemns it. 
Evil then becomes part of the standards of morality 
sanctioned by the authority of society. This confuses 
the moral judgment of the individual. The faculty of 
inhibition goes wrong. The magnetic pole itself shifts 
and the compass-needle of conscience swings to S.E. 

Theology has always been deeply interested in the 
problem of authority in religion. The problem of au- 
thority in sin is of equal importance. Religious faith in 
the individual would be weak and intermittent unless it 
could lean on permanent social authorities. Sin in the 
individual is shame-faced and cowardly except where 
society backs and protects it. This makes a decisive 
difference in the practical task of overcoming a given 

The case of alcoholic intoxication may serve as an 
example. Intoxication, like profanity and tattooing, is 
one of the universal marks of barbarism. In civilization 
it is a survival, and its phenomena become increasingly 
intolerable and disgusting to the scientific and to the 


moral mind. Nevertheless alcoholic drinking customs 
have prevailed and still prevail throughout civilization. 
What has given the practice of injecting a seductive drug 
into the human organism so enduring a hold? Other 
drug habits, such as the opium, cocaine, or heroin habits, 
are secretive and ashamed. Why does the alcohol habit 
flourish in the open? Aside from the question of the 
economic forces behind It, of which I shall speak later, 
the difference is due to social authority. 

In the wine-drinking countries wine is praised in 
poetry and song. The most charming social usages are 
connected with its use. It is the chief reliance for enter- 
tainment and pleasure. Laughter is supposed to die 
without it. No disgrace is attached to mild intoxication 
provided a gentleman carries his drink well and continues 
to behave politely. Families take more pride in their 
wine-cellars than in the tombs of their ancestors. 
Young men are proud of the amount of wine and beer 
they can imbibe and of the learning which they refuse 
to imbibe. tJntil very recent years a total abstainer in 
middle class European society was regarded with dis- 
quietude of mind and social impatience, like a person 
advocating force revolution or political assassination. 
He was a heretic, and his freedom of conscience had to 
be won by very real sufferings. 

This justification and idealization of alcoholism by 
public opinion made it incomparably harder to save the 
victims, to prevent the formation of the drinking habits 
in new cases, and to secure legislation. Governments 
were, of course, anxious to suppress the disgusting 
drunkenness of the labouring classes, which interfered 


with their working efficiency, but the taming of the liquor 
trade was hard to secure as long as men high up in 
Parliament, the established Church, and Society con- 
sidered investments in breweries, distilleries, and public 
houses a perfectly honourable source of income. 

The rapid progress in the expulsion of the liquor trade 
in America would have been impossible if the idealization 
of the drinking customs had not previously disappeared 
from public opinion. The chief plea of the brewers now 
is that beer displaces distilled liquor and promotes 
temperance. In '' the People's Sunday Evening," a 
popular theatre meeting in Rochester, N. Y., we have 
for seven years publicly invited and challenged the 
Brewers' Exchange and all the liquor trade organizations 
to discuss the social and moral utility of moderate drin^:- 
ing on our platform. They accepted the first time, Ibut 
had to go to Buffalo for a lawyer to make the speech. 
After that we were never able to secure a response. 
The use of liquor is still common in America, but its 
social authority has been overcome. So far as I can 
see, this was done by the churches before either business 
or science lent much aid, and the decisive fact which set 
the voice of some of the denominations free was their 
refusal to tolerate in their membership persons financially 
interested in the liquor business, or to receive contribu- 
tions from them. 

In the case of alcoholism we can watch a gradual 
breaking down of the social authority of a great evil. 
In the case of militarism we are watching the reverse 
process. Before the War the military institutions of 
our nation were weak and public opinion condemned 


war. Enthusiasm for peace was one of the clearest 
social convictions of the Church. This state of mind 
was one of the causes for our mental reactions at the 
outbreak of the war. In the course of three years we 
have swung around. At first preparedness was advocated 
as a dire necessity under the actual circumstances. But 
soon other voices began to mingle with this. We were 
soft and flabby, without training in order and obedience. 
It would do our boys and young men a world of good 
to be under military discipline and drill for years. It 
would improve the American character. Prophets of 
war asserted that war is essentially noble, the supreme 
test of manhood and of the worth of a nation. The cor- 
responding swing in the attitude of the churches was made 
slowly and with deep reluctance and searching of heart 
by many ministers. But it was made. Those who re- 
mained faithful to the religious peace convictions which 
had been orthodox a short time ago, were now extremists, 
and the position of a public spokesman of religion became 
exceedingly difficult for one who believed that war is in- 
herently evil and in contradiction to Christianity. The 
problem of Jesus took on new forms and dealt with his 
pacifism and non-resistance. The ejection of the traders 
from the temple with a scourge of small cords, and the 
advice to the disciples to sell their cloaks and buy swords, 
took rank as important parts of the gospel. 

In these ways religion, being part of the national life, 
had to adjust its convictions and teachings in order to per- 
mit the idealization of war. If the nations emerge into a 
long peace with disarmament, this war will be recorded 
as a holy and redemptive war. If preparedness and 


universal service become permanent institutions of 
American life, profound changes in the popular philos- 
ophy of life and in religious thought will follow. Social 
institutions always generate the theories adapted to them. 

The idealization of evil is an indispensable means for 
its perpetuation and transmission. But the most potent 
motive for its protection is its profitableness. Ordi- 
narily sin is an act of weakness and side-stepping, fol- 
lowed by shame the next day. But when it is the source 
of prolific income, it is no longer a shame-faced vaga- 
bond slinking through the dark, but an army with ban- 
ners, entrenched and defiant. The bigger the dividends, 
the stiffer the resistance against anything that would cut 
them down. When fed with money, sin grows wings 
and claws. 

The other outlets for sinful selfishness, such as over- 
eating and sexual excess, soon reach their natural limit 
and end in nausea and disgust, or they eliminate the 
sinner. Polygamy gave full scope to the lust of great 
men, but Solomon's thousand concubines seem to be the 
limit in history and story. We have never heard of a 
man becoming a millionaire in the line of wives. 

Property, too, used to be limited. Too much land or 
cattle or clothing became unmanageable. The main 
satisfaction of the rich was to have many guests and 
dependents, and to spend bountifully. The rise of the 
money system enlarged the limits of acquisition. Money 
could be bred from money. To-day a man can store 
millions in paper evidences of wealth in a safe deposit 
box, and collect the income from it with a stenographer, 


a lawyer, and a pair of shears. He can acquire tens of 
millions, hundreds of millions. Imagine the digestive 
organs expanding to the size of a Zeppelin. 

If " the love of money is the root of all evil," and if 
selfishness is the essence of sin, such an expansion of the 
range and storage capacity of selfishness must neces- 
sarily mark a new era in the history of sin, just as the 
invention of the steam-engine marked a new era in the 
production of wealth. Drink, over-eating, sexualism, 
vanity, and idleness are still reliable standardized sins. 
But the exponent of gigantic evil on the upper ranges 
of sin, is the love of money and the love of power over 
men which property connotes. This is the most difficult 
field of practical redemption and the most necessitous 
chance of evangelism. 

The theological doctrine of original sin is an impor- 
tant effort to see sin in its totality and to explain its un- 
broken transmission and perpetuation. But this ex- 
planation of the facts is very fragmentary, and theology 
has done considerable harm in concentrating the atten- 
tion of religious minds on the biological transmission of 
evil. It has diverted our minds from the power of 
social transmission, from the authority of the social 
group in justifying, urging, and idealizing wrong, and 
from the decisive influence of economic profit in the de- 
fense and propagation of evil. These are ethical facts, 
but they have the greatest religious importance, and they 
have just as much right to being discussed in theology 
as the physical propagation of the species, or creationism 
and traducianism. There is the more inducement to 


teach clearly on the social transmission and perpetuation 
of sin because the ethical and religious forces can really 
do something to check and prevent the transmission of 
sin along social channels, whereas the biological transmis- 
sion of original sin, except for the possible influence of 
eugenics, seems to be beyond our influence. 



Individualistic theology has not trained the spiritual 
intelligence of Christian men and women to recognize 
and observe spiritual entities beyond the individual. 
Our religious interest has been so focused on the soul 
of the individual and its struggles that we have remained 
uneducated as to the more complex units of spiritual 

The chief exception to this statement is our religious 
insight into the history of Israel and Judah, into the 
nature of the family, and the qualities of the Church. 
The first of these we owe to the solidaristic vision of the 
.Old Testament prophets who saw their nation as a gigan- 
tic personality which sinned, suffered, and repented. 
The second we owe to the deep interest which the Church 
from the beginning has taken in the purity of family 
life and the Christian nurture of the young. The third 
we owe to the high valuation the Church has always put 
on itself. It has claimed a continuous and enduring life 
of its own which enfolds all its members and distin- 
guishes it from every other organization and from the 
totality of the worldly life outside of it. It is hard to 
deny this. Not only the Church as a whole, but dis- 
tinctive groups and organizations within the Church, 
such as the Friends or the Jesuit Order, have maintained 



their own character and principles tenaciously against 
all influences. This is the noblest view that we can take 
of the Church, that the spirit of her Lord has always 
been an informing principle of life within her, and that, 
though faltering, sinning, and defiled, she has kept her 
own collective personality intact. Paul's discussion of 
the Church as the body of Christ (i Cor. xii) is the first 
and classical discussion in Christian thought of the nature 
and functioning of a composite spiritual organism. 

The Church is not the only organism of that kind, 
though pre-eminent among them all. Others are less 
permanent, less distinctive, less attractive, and less self- 
assertive, but the spiritual self -consciousness of the 
Church is built up on the social self -consciousness which 
it shares with other social organisms. 

Josiah Royce, one of the ablest philosophical thinkers 
our nation has produced, has given us, in his '' Problem 
of Christianity," his mature reflections on the subject of 
the Christian religion. The book is a great fragment, 
poorly balanced, confined in the main to a modern dis- 
cussion of three great Pauline conceptions, sin, atone- 
ment, and the Church. The discussion of the Church 
is the ablest part of it; I shall return to that later. Fol- 
lowing the lead of Wundt's Volkerpsychologie, Profes- 
sor Royce was deeply impressed with the reality of 
super-personal forces in human life. He regards the 
comprehension of that fact as one of the most important 
advances in knowledge yet made. 

"There are in the human world two profoundly different 
grades, or levels, of mental beings, — namely, the beings that 
we usually call human individuals, and the beings that we call 


communities. — Any highly organized community is as truly a 
human being as you and I are individually human. Only a 
community is not what we usually call an individual human 
being because it has no one separate and internally well-knit 
physical organism of its own; and because its mind, if you 
attribute to it any one mind, is therefore not manifested through 
the expressive movements of such a single separate human 
organism. Yet there are reasons for attributing to a commun- 
ity a mind of its own. — The communities are vastly more com- 
plex, and, in many ways, are also immeasurably more potent 
and enduring than are the individuals. Their mental life 
possesses, as Wundt has pointed out, a psychology of its own, 
which can be systematically studied. Their mental existence 
is no mere creation of abstract thinking or of metaphor; and 
IS no more a topic for mystical insight, or for phantastic specu- 
lation, than is the mental existence of an individual man." ^ 

This conception is of great importance for the doc- 
trine of sin. I have spoken in the last chapter about the 
authority of the group over the individual within it, and 
its power to impose its own moral standard on its mem- 
bers, by virtue of which it educates them upward, if its 
standard is high, and debases them, if it is low. We 
need only mention some of the groups in our own na- 
tional social life to realize how they vary in moral qual- 
ity and how potent they are by virtue of their collective 
life: high school fraternities; any college community; a 
trade union; the I. W. W. ; the SociaHst party; Tam- 
many Hall ; any military organization ; an ofBcers' corps ; 
the police force; the inside group of a local political 
party; the Free Masons; the Grange; the legal profes- 
sion ; a conspiracy like the Black Hand. 

These super-personal forces count in the moral world 
not only through their authority over their members, but 

1 " Problem of Christianity," I, p. 164-167. 


through their influence in the general social life. They 
front the world outside of them. Their real object 
usually lies outside. The assimilative power they exert 
over their members is only their form of discipline by 
which they bring their collective body into smooth and 
efficient working order. They are the most powerful 
ethical forces in our communities. 

Evil collective forces have usually fallen from a better 
estate. Organizations are rarely formed for avowedly 
evil ends. They drift into evil under sinister leadership, 
or under the pressure of need or temptation. For in- 
stance, a small corrupt group in a city council, in order 
to secure control, tempts the weak, conciliates and serves 
good men, and turns the council itself into a force of 
evil in the city; an inside ring in the police force grafts 
on the vice trade, and draws a part of the force into 
protecting crime and brow-beating decent citizens; a 
trade union fights for the right to organize a shop, but 
resorts to violence and terrorizing; a trust, desiring to 
steady prices and to get away from antiquated compe- 
tition, undersells the independents and evades or pur- 
chases legislation. This tendency to deterioration shows 
the soundness of the social instincts, but also the ease 
with which they go astray, and the need of righteous 
social institutions to prevent temptation. 

In the previous chapter it was pointed out that the 
love of gain is one of the most unlimited desires and the 
most inviting outlet for sinful selfishness. The power 
of combination lends itself to extortion. Predatory 
profit or graft, when once its sources are opened up and 
developed, constitutes an almost overwhelming tempta- 


tion to combinations of men. Its pursuit gives them 
cohesion and unity of mind, capacity to resist common 
dangers, and an outfit of moral and political principles 
which will justify their anti-social activities. The ag- 
gressive and defensive doings of such combinations are 
written all over history. History should be re-written 
to explain the nature of human parasitism. It would 
be a revelation. The Roman publicani, who collected 
the taxes from conquered provinces on a contract basis; 
the upper class in all slave-holding communities; the 
landlord class in all ages and countries, such as East 
Prussia, Ireland, Italy, and Russia; the great trading 
companies in the early history of commerce ; — these are 
instances of social groups consolidated by extortionate 
gain. Such groups necessarily resist efforts to gain 
political liberty or social justice, for liberty and justice 
do away with unearned incomes. Their malign in- 
fluence on the development of humanity has been beyond 

The higher the institution, the worse it is when it 
goes wrong. The most disastrous backsliding in history 
was the deterioration of the Church. Long before the 
Reformation the condition of the Church had become 
the most serious social question of the age. It weighed 
on all good men. The Church, which was founded on 
democracy and brotherhood, had, in its higher levels, 
become an organization controlled by the upper classes 
for parasitic ends, a religious duplicate of the coercive 
State, and a chief check on the advance of democracy 
and brotherhood. Its duty was to bring love, unity and 
freedom to mankind; instead it created division, fo- 


mented hatred, and stifled intellectual and social liberty. 
It is proof of the high valuation men put on the Church 
that its corruption seems to have weighed more heavily 
on the conscience of Christendom than the correspond- 
ing corruption of the State. At least the religious Revo- 
lution antedated the political Revolution by several 
centuries. To-day the Church is practically free from 
graft and exploitation; its sins are mainly sins of omis- 
sion; yet the contrast between the idea of the Church 
and its reality, between the force for good which it might 
exert and the force which it does exert in public life, 
produces profounder feelings than the shortcomings of 
the State. 

While these pages are being written, our nation is 
arming itself to invade another continent for the purpose 
of overthrowing the German government, on the ground 
that the existence of autocratic governments is a menace 
to the peace of the world and the freedom of its peoples. 
This momentous declaration of President Wilson recog- 
nizes the fact that the Governments of Great States too 
may be super-personal powers of sin; that they may in 
reality be only groups of men using their fellow-men as 
pawns and tools ; that such governments have in the past 
waged war for dynastic and class interests without con- 
sulting the people ; and that in their diplomacy they have 
cunningly contrived plans of deception and aggression, 
working them out through generations behind the 
guarded confidences of a narrow and privileged class.^ 

1 These ideas and phrases are drawn from the President's Ad- 
dress to Congress on April 2nd, 1917. 


There is no doubt that these charges justly character-- 
ize the German government. There is no doubt that 
they characterize all governments of past history with 
few exceptions, and that even the democratic govern- 
ments of to-day are not able to show clean hands on 
these points. The governments even of free States like 
the Dutch Republic, the city republics of Italy, and the 
British Empire have been based on a relatively narrow 
group who determined the real policies and decisions of 
the nation. How often have we been told that in our 
own country we have one government on paper and 
another in fact? Genuine political democracy will evi- 
dence its existence by the social, economic, and educa- 
tional condition of the people. Generally speaking, city 
slums, a spiritless and drunken peasantry, and a large 
emigration are corollaries of class government. If the 
people were free, they would stop exploitation. If they 
can not stop exploitation, the parasitic interests are pre- 
sumably in control of legislation, the courts, and the 
powers of coercion. Parasitic government is sin on a 
high scale. If this war leads to the downfall or regen- 
eration of all governments which support the exploita- 
tion of the masses by powerful groups, it will be worth 
its cost. 

The social gospel realizes the importance and power 
of the super-personal forces in the community. It has 
succeeded in awakening the social conscience of the na- 
tion to the danger of allowing such forces to become 
parasitic and oppressive. A realization of the spiritual 
power and value of these composite personalities must 
get into theology, otherwise theology will not deal ade- 


quately with the problem of sin and of redemption, and 
will be unrelated to some of the most important work 
of salvation which the coming generations will have 
to do. 



This chapter will be the last step in our discussion 
of the doctrine of sin. We have sought to show that in 
the following points a modification or expansion is 
needed in order to give the social gospel an intellectual 
basis and a full medium of expression in theology. 

1. Theological teaching on the first origin of sin ought 
not to obscure the active sources of sin in later genera- 
tions and in present-day life, by which sin is quickened 
and increased. An approximation to the reticence of 
Jesus and the prophets about the fall of man, and to 
their strong emphasis on the realistic facts of contem- 
porary sin, would increase the practical efficiency of 

2. Since an active sense of failure and sin is produced 
by contrast with the corresponding ideal of righteous- 
ness, theology, by obscuring and forgetting the Kingdom 
of God has kept the Christian world out of a full reali- 
zation of the social sins which frustrate the Kingdom. 
The social gospel needs above all a restoration of re- 
ligious faith in the Reign of God in order to create an 
adequate sense of guilt for public sins, and it must look 
to theology to furnish the doctrinal basis of it. 

3. The doctrine of original sin has directed attention 
to the biological channels for the transmission of general 
sinfulness from generation to generation, but has neg- 



lected and diverted attention from the transmission and 
perpetuation of specific evils through the channels of 
social tradition. 

4. Theology has not given adequate attention to the 
social idealizations of evil, which falsify the ethical 
standards for the individual by the authority of his group 
or community, deaden the voice of the Holy Spirit to 
the conscience of individuals and communities, and per- 
petuate antiquated wrongs in society. These social 
idealizations are the real heretical doctrines from the 
point of view of the Kingdom of God. 

5. New spiritual factors of the highest significance 
are disclosed by the realization of the super-personal 
forces, or composite personalities, in society. When 
these backslide and become combinations for evil, they 
add enormously to the power of sin. Theology has 
utilized the terminology and results of psychology to 
interpret the sin and regeneration of individuals. 
Would it stray from its field if it utilized sociological 
terms and results in order to interpret the sin and re- 
demption of these super-personal entities in human life? 

The solidaristic spiritual conceptions which have been 
discussed must all be kept in mind and seen together, in 
order to realize the power and scope of the doctrine to 
which they converge : the Kingdom of Evil. 

In some of our swampy forests the growth of ages 
has produced impenetrable thickets of trees and under- 
growth, woven together by creepers, and inhabited by 
things that creep or fly. Every season sends forth new 
growth under the urge of life, but always developing 


from the old growth and its seeds, and still perpetuat- 
ing the same rank mass of life. 

The life of humanity is infinitely interwoven, always 
renewing itself, yet always perpetuating what has been. 
The evils of one generation are caused by the wrongs 
of the generations that preceded, and will in turn con- 
dition the sufferings and temptations of those who come 
after. Our Italian immigrants are what they are be- 
cause theChurchj^nd the land system of Italy have made 
them so. The Mexican peon is ridden by the Spanish 
past. Capitalistic Europe has fastened its yoke on the 
neck of Africa. When negroes are hunted from a 
Northern city like beasts, or when a Southern city de- 
grades the whole nation by turning the savage inhuman- 
ity of a mob into a public festivity, we are continuing 
to sin because our fathers created the conditions of sin 
by the African slave trade and by the unearned wealth 
they gathered from slave labour for generations. 

Stupid dynasties go on reigning by right of the long 
time they have reigned. The laws of the ancient 
Roman despotism were foisted by ambitious lawyers on 
mediaeval communities, to which they were in no wise 
fitted, and once more strangled liberty, and dragged 
free farmers into serfdom. When once the common 
land of a nation, and its mines and waters, have become 
the private property of a privileged band, nothing short 
of a social earthquake can pry them from their right 
of collecting private taxes. "Superstitions which origi- 
nated in the third century are still faithfully cultivated 
by great churches, compressing the minds of the young 
with fear and cherished by the old as their most precious 


faith. Ideas struck out by a wrestling mind in the heat 
of an argument are erected by later times into proof- 
texts more decisive than masses of living facts. One 
nation arms because it fears another; the other arms 
more because this armament alarms it; each subsidizes 
a third and a fourth to aid it. Two fight; all fight; 
none knows how to stop; a planet is stained red in a 
solidarity of hate and horror. 

The entomologist Fabre investigated the army cater- 
pillar, which marches in dense thousands, apparently 
under some leadership which all obey. But Fabre found 
there is no leadership. Each simply keeps in touch with 
the caterpillar just ahead of it and follows, follows on. 
The one article of faith is to follow the leaders, though 
none of the leaders knows whither they are going. The 
experimenter led the column to march in a circle by get- 
ting the front rank in touch with the rear, and now they 
milled around helplessly like lost souls in Dante's hell. 

If this were the condition of humanity, we should 
be in a state of relative innocency and bliss. The front- 
rank caterpillars are at least not trying to make some- 
thing out of the rest, and are not leading them to their 
destruction by assuring them that they are doing it for 
their good and for the highest spiritual possessions of 
the caterpillar race. Human society has leaders who 
know what they want, but many of them have manipu- 
lated the fate of thousands for their selfish ends. The 
sheep-tick hides in the wool of the sheep and taps the 
blood where it flows warm and rich. But the tick has 
no power to alter the arterial system of the sheep and to 
bring the aorta close to the skin where it can get at it. 


Human ticks have been able to do this. They have 
gained control of legislation, courts, police, military, 
royalty, church, property, religion, and have altered the 
constitution of nations in order to make things easy for 
the tick class. The laws, institutions, doctrines, litera- 
ture, art, and manners which these ruling classes have 
secreted have been social means of infection which have 
bred new evils for generations. 

Any reader who doubts these sad statements can find 
the facts in the books, though mostly in foot-notes in 
fine print. It is also going on in real life. We can 
watch it if we look at any nation except our own. 

This is what the modern social gospel would call the 
Kingdom of Evil. Our theological conception of sin is 
but fragmentary unless we see all men in their natural 
groups bound together in a solidarity of all times and all 
places, bearing the yoke of evil and suffering. This is 
the explanation of the amazing regularity of social 
statistics. A nation registers so and so many suicides, 
criminal assaults, bankruptcies, and divorces per 100,000 
of the population. If the proportion changes seriously, 
we search for the disturbing social causes, just as we 
search for the physical causes if the rhythm of our 
pulse-beat runs away from the normal. The statistics 
of social morality are the pulse-beat of the social organ- 
ism. The apparently free and unrelated acts of indi- 
viduals are also the acts of the social group. When the 
social group is evil, evil is over all. 

The conception of a Kingdom of Evil is not a new 
idea. It is as old as the Christian Church and older. 


But while our modern conception is naturally historical 
and social, the ancient and mediaeval Church believed in 
a Kingdom of evil spirits, with Satan at their head, 
which is the governing power in the present world and 
the source of all temptation. 

The belief in evil spirits is so common in ethnic re- 
ligions that the relative absence of that belief in the Old 
Testament is proper cause for wonder. There are only 
a few passages referring to evil spirits, and a few re- 
ferring to a spiritual being called Satan. It is altogether 
likely that the belief in dangerous and malicious spirits 
held a much larger place in the popular religious Hfe of 
the Jewish people than we would gather from their 
literature. If the higher religious minds, who wrote the 
biblical books, purposely kept the popular beliefs down 
and out of sight, that gives remarkable support to those 
who regard the belief in personal evil spirits as a seamy 
and dangerous element of religion. 

After the Exile the religion of the Jews was filled 
with angels and devils, each side built up in a great 
hierarchy, rank above rank. Evidently this systema- 
tized and theological belief in a satanic kingdom was 
absorbed from the Eastern religions with which the Jews 
came into close contact during the Exile. The mono- 
theism of the Hebrew faith held its own against the 
dualism of the East, but the belief in Satan is a modified 
dualism compatible with the reign of Jehovah. The 
apocalyptic system is a theology built up on this semi- 
dualistic ' conception, describing the conflict of the King- 
dom of Satan against God and his angels and his holy 
nation, and the final triumph of God. 


The belief in the Satanic Kingdom and the apocalyptic 
theology were transferred from Judaism to Christianity 
as part of the initial inheritance of the new religion 
from the old, and any one familiar with patristic litera- 
ture and with popular mediaeval religion needs no re- 
minder that this was one of the most active and effective 
parts of the religious consciousness. The original belief 
was reinforced by the fact that all the gods and the 
daimonia of the Grseco-Roman world were dyed black 
and classified as devils and evil spirits by the aggressive 
hostility of the Church. This process was repeated 
when the mediaeval Church was exorcising the pagan 
gods from the minds and customs of the Teutonic na- 
tions. All these gods remained realities, but black 

Popular superstition, systematized and reinforced by 
theology, and inculcated by all the teaching authority 
of the mediaeval Church, built up an overwhelming im- 
pression of the power of evil. The Christian spirit was 
thrown into an attitude of defence only. The best that 
could be done was to hold the powers of darkness at 
bay by the sign of the cross, by holy water, by sacred 
amulets, by prayer, by naming holy names. The church 
buildings and church yards were places of refuge from 
which the evil spirits were banned. The gargoyles of 
Gothic architecture are the evil spirits escaping from the 
church buildings because the spiritual power within is 
unbearable to them. I recently witnessed a corner-stone 
laying at a new Catholic church. The bishop and the 
clergy thrice moved in procession around the founda- 
tion walls, chanting; an acolyte carried a pailful of holy 


water, and the bishop liberally applied it to the walls. 
So the rectangle of masonry became an exempt and dis- 
infected area of safety. Under the sunshine of an 
American afternoon, and with a crowd of modern folks 
around, it was an interesting survival. 

The belief in a demonic Kingdom was in no wise at- 
tacked in the Reformatfon. Luther's sturdy belief in 
devils is well known. Indeed, the belief which had 
been built up for centuries by the Church, came to its 
terrible climax during the age of the Reformation in the 
witch trials. From a. d. 1400 to 1700, hundreds of 
thousands of women and girls were imprisoned, tor- 
tured, and burned. These witch trials were grounded 
on the belief in the satanic kingdom. Thomas Aquinas 
furnished the theological basis; the Inquisition reduced 
it to practice; Innocent VIII in 1484 in the bull Sum- 
mis desiderantes lent it the highest authority of the 
Church; the Malleus Maleficarum (1487 or 1488) codi- 
fied it; lawyers, judges, informers, and executioners ex- 
ploited it for gain; information given by malice, fear, 
or the shrieks of the tortured made the contagion self- 
perpetuating and ever spreading. It prevailed in 
Protestant countries equally with Catholic. To believe 
in the machinations of evil spirits and their compact 
with witches was part of orthodoxy, part of profounder 
piety. If the devil and his spirits are not real but a 
figment of social imagination, yet at that time the devil 
was real, just as real as any flesh and blood being and 
far more efficient. Theology had made him real. The 
Reformation theology did not end this craze of horror. 
Aside from the humane religious spirit of a few who 


wrote against it, it was the blessed scepticism of the 
age of Enhghtenment and the dawn of modern science 
which saved humanity from the furies of a theology 
which had gone wrong. 

The passive and defensive attitude toward the satanic 
Kingdom of Evil still continues wherever the belief in 
evil spirits and in the apocalyptic theology is active. 
Bunyan's '' Pilgrim's Progress " presents a dramatic rec- 
ord of the Calvinistic religious consciousness in its prime. 
In all the wonderful adventures and redoubtable combats 
of Christian and his companions and heavenly aids, they 
are on the defensive. The only exception that I can re- 
member occurs in the second part, when Christian's 
wife and children, personally conducted by Great-Heart, 
pass by Doubting Castl^ where Christian and Hopeful 
were imprisoned by Giant Despair. 

" So they sat down and consulted what was best to be done : 
to wit, now they were so strong, and had got such a man as 
Mr. Great-Heart for their conductor, whether they had not best 
to make an attempt upon the giant, demolish his castle, and 
if there were any pilgrims in it, to set them at liberty, before 
they went any further. So one said one thing, and another 
said the contrary. One questioned if it was lawful to go upon 
unconsecrated ground; another said they might, provided their 
end was good ; but Mr. Great-Heart said, " Though that asser- 
tion offered last cannot be universally true, yet I have a com- 
mandment to resist sin, to overcome evil, to fight the good fight 
of faith; and pray, with whom should I fight this good fight, if 
not with Giant Despair? I will therefore attempt the taking 
away of his life and the demolishing of Doubting Castle." 

So they passed from the defensive to the offensive at- 
titude and demolished the castle. The serious delibera- 
tions of the party show that Bunyan realized that this 


was a new departure. He was, in fact at that moment 
parting company with the traditional attitude of the- 
ology and religion, and putting one foot hestitatingly 
into the social gospel and the preventive methods of 
modern science. Note that it was Mr. Great-Heart who 
made the move. 

To-day the belief in a satanic kingdom exists only 
where religious and theological tradition keeps it alive. 
It is not spontaneous, and it would not originate anew. 
Its lack of vitality is proved by the fact that even those 
who accept the existence of a personal Satan without 
question, are not influenced in their daily life by the 
practical belief in evil spirits. The demons have faded 
away into poetical unreality. Satan alone remains, but 
he has become a literary and theological devil, and most 
often a figure of speech. He is a theological necessity 
rather than a religious reality. He is needed to explain 
the fall and the temptation, and he re-appears in eschat- 
ology. But our most orthodox theology on this point 
would have seemed cold and sceptical to any of the 
great theologians of the past. 

No positive proof can be furnished that our universe 
contains no such spiritual beings as Satan and his angels. 
Impressive arguments have been made for their exis- 
tence. The problem of evil is simplified if all is re- 
duced to this source. But the fact confronts us, — and 
I think it can not be denied, — that Satan and his angels 
are a fading religious entity, and that a vital belief in 
demon powers is not forthcoming in modern life. 

In that case we can no longer realize the Kingdom of 
Evil as a demonic kingdom. The live realization of this 


belief will be confined to narrow circles, mostly of pre- 
millennialists ; the Church would have to use up its 
precious moral authority in persuading its members to 
hold fast a belief which all modern life bids them drop. 
Yet we ought to get a solidaristic and organic concep- 
tion of the power and reality of evil in the world. If 
we miss that, we shall see only disjointed facts. The 
social gospel is the only influence which can renew the 
idea of the Kingdom of Evil in modern minds, because 
it alone has an adequate sense of solidarity and a suffi- 
cient grasp of the historical and social realities of sin. 
In this modern form the conception would offer re- 
ligious values similar to those of the old idea, but would 
not make such drafts on our credulity, and would not 
invite such unchristian superstitions and phantasms of 

The ancient demonic conception and the modern social 
conviction may seem at first sight to be quite alien to 
each other. In fact, however, they are blood-kin. 

The belief in a Satanic kingdom, in so far as it was 
not merely theology but vital religious faith, has always 
drawn its vitality from political and social realities. 
The conception of an empire of evil fastened on Jewish 
thought after the Jews had an opportunity during the Ex- 
ile to observe imperialism at close range and to be help- 
less under its power. The splendor of an Oriental court 
and its court language deeply influenced the Jewish con- 
ception of God. He was surrounded with a heavenly 
retinue, and despotic ideas and phraseology were ap- 
pTieci. The same social experiences also enlarged the 


conception of the reign of evil. The little evil spirits 
had been enough to explain the evil of local Jewish 
communities. But a great malign power was needed as 
the religious backing of the oppressive international 
forces in whose talons the Jewish race was writhing. 
Satan first got his vitality as an international political 

The political significance of the belief in the Satanic 
kingdom becomes quite clear in the relation of the early 
Church to the Roman Empire. The Apocalypse of 
John is most enlightening on this fact. The Empire is 
plainly described as the creature and agent of the Satanic 
powers. The Beast with the seven heads had received 
its dominion from the great Dragon. The great city, 
which is described as the commercial and financial 
centre of the world, falls with a crash when Satan and 
his host are overthrown by the Messiah. Evidently the 
political system of Rome and the demonic powers are 
seen as the physical and spiritual side of the same evil 

Early Christianity is usually described as opposed to 
paganism, and we think of the pagan religion as a rival 
religious system. But it was also a great social force 
penetrating all community life, the symbol of social co- 
herence and loyalty. Its social usages let no one alone. 
It became coercive and threatening where religious ac- 
tions had political significance, especially in the worship 
of the emperor. Christians believed the pagan gods to be 
in reality demon powers, who had blinded and enticed 
men to worship them. Whoever did worship them came 
under their defiling power. Idolatry was an unforgiv- 


able sin. All the life of the Church aimed to nerve 
Christians to suffer anything rather than come under 
the control of the dark powers again from which bap- 
tism had saved them. When the choice confronted them 
and they were pinned to the wall, the hand that gripped 
them was the hand of the Roman Empire, but the face 
that leered at them was the face of the adversary of 
God. So the belief in a Satanic kingdom of evil drew 
its concrete meaning and vitality from social and politi- 
cal realities. It was their religious interpretation. 

In the Middle Ages, when the Roman Empire had 
become a great memory, the Papacy was the great in- 
ternational power, rich, haughty, luxurious, domineer- 
ing, commanding the police powers of States for its 
coercive purposes, and claiming the heritage of the em- 
perors. The democratic movements which sprang up 
during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and headed 
toward a freer religion and a more fraternal social life, 
found the papacy against them. Then the Apocalypse 
took on new life. The city on the seven hills, drunk 
with the blood of the saints, and clad in scarlet, was 
still there. The followers of Jesus who suffered in the 
grip of the international hierarchy did not see this 
power as a Christian Church using oppressive measures, 
but as an anti-christian power, the tool of Satan and 
the adversary of God. This belief was inherited by 
Protestantism and was one of its fighting weapons. 
Once more it was a political and social reality which 
put heat and vitality into the belief in the reign of Satan. 

To-day there is no such world-wide power of op- 
pression as the Roman Empire or the mediaeval papacy. 


The popular superstitious beliefs in demonic agencies 
have largely been drained off by education. The con- 
ception of Satan has paled. He has become a theo- 
logical devil, and that is an attenuated and precarious 
mode of existence. At the same time belief in original 
sin is also waning. These two doctrines combined, — 
the hereditary racial unity of sin, and the supernatural 
power of evil behind all sinful human action, — created 
a solidaristic consciousness of sin and evil, which I think 
is necessary for the religious mind. Take away these 
two doctrines, and both our sense of sin and our sense 
of the need of redemption will become much more 
superficial and will be mainly concerned with the tran- 
sient acts and vices of individuals. 

A social conception of the Kingdom of Evil, such as 
I have tried to sketch, makes a powerful appeal to our 
growing sense of racial unity. It is modern and grows 
spontaneously out of our livest interests and ideas. In- 
stead of appealing to conservatives, who are fond of 
sitting on antique furniture, it would appeal to the radi- 
cals. It would contain the political and social protest 
against oppression and illusion for which the belief in 
a Satanic kingdom stood in the times of its greatest 
vitality. The practical insight into the solidarity of all 
nations in their sin would emphasize the obligation to 
share with them all every element of salvation we possess, 
and thus strengthen the appeal for missionary and edu- 
cational efforts. 

The doctrine of original sin was meant to bring us all 
under the sense of guilt. Theology in the past has 


labored to show that we are in some sense partakers of 
Adam's guilt. But the conscience of mankind has 
never been convinced. Partakers in his wretchedness 
we might well be by our family coherence, but guilt be- 
longs only to personality, and requires will and freedom. 
On the other hand an enlightened conscience can not help 
feeling a growing sense of responsibility and guilt for 
the common sins under which humanity is bound and 
to which we all contribute. Who of us can say that 
he has never by word or look contributed to the atmos- 
pheric pressure of lubricious sex stimulation which bears 
down on young and old, and the effect of which after 
the war no man can predict without sickening? Whose 
hand has never been stained with income for which no 
equivalent had been given in service? How many busi- 
ness men have promoted the advance of democracy in 
their own industrial kingdom when autocracy seemed 
safer and more efficient? What nation has never been 
drunk with a sense of its glory and importance, and 
which has never seized colonial possessions or developed 
its little imperialism when the temptation came its way? 
The sin of all is in each of us, and every one of us has 
scattered seeds of evil, the final multiplied harvest of 
which no man knows. 

At the close of his great invective against the religious 
leaders of his nation (Matth. xxiii), Jesus has a solidaris- 
tic vision of the spiritual unity of the generations. He 
warns his contemporaries that by doing over again the 
acts of their forefathers, they will bring upon them not 
only the blood they shed themselves, but the righteous 
blood shed long before. By solidarity of action and 


Spirit we enter into solidarity of guilt. This applies to 
our spiritual unity with our contemporaries. If in the 
most restricted sphere of life we act on the same sinful 
principles of greed and tyranny on which the great ex- 
ploiters and despots act, we share their guilt. If we 
consent to the working principles of the Kingdom of 
Evil, and do not counteract it with all our strength, 
but perhaps even fail to see its ruinous evil, then we 
are part of it and the salvation of Christ has not yet 
set us free. 

I should like to quote, in closing this discussion, a 
remarkable passage from Schleierma cher's systematic 
theology, which describes the~King3omof Evil without 
calling it by that name. I need not say that Schleier- 
macher was one of the really creative minds in the his- 
tory of Protestant theology, a man who set new prob- 
lems and made old problems profounder, thus fertiliz- 
ing the thoughts even of those who know nothing of 
him. Speaking of the universal racial sin of humanity 
he said : 

** If, now, this sinfulness which precedes all acts of 
sin, is produced in every individual through the sinful 
acts and condition of others;. and if on the other hand 
every man by his own free actions propagates and 
strengthens it in others; then it is something wholly 
common to us (gemeinschaftlich). Whether we view 
this sinfulness as guilt and as conscious action, or as a 
principle and condition of life, in either aspect it is 
something wholly common, not pertaining to every in- 
dividual separately or referring to him alone, but in each 


the work of all, and in all the work of each. In fact we 
can understand it justly and completely only in this 
solidarity. For that reason the doctrines dealing with 
it are never to be taken as expressions of individual self- 
consciousness, but they are expressions of the common 
consciousness. This solidarity is a unity of all places 
and all times. The peculiar form which this racial sin- 
fulness takes in any individual, is simply an integral 
part of the form it takes in the social group to which he 
belongs, so that his sin is incomprehensible if taken alone 
and must always be taken m,-eonnection with the rest. 
This principle runs through all the concentric circles of 
solidaristic consciousness, through families, clans, tribes, 
nations, and races; the form which sinfulness takes in 
any of these can be understood only in connection with 
the rest. Therefore the total force exerted by the flesh 
against the spirit in all human actions incompatible with 
the consciousness of God, can be truly realized only when 
we see the totality of all contemporary life, never in any 
part alone. The same holds true of the succession of 
generations. The congenital sinfulness of one gener- 
ation is conditioned by the sinfulness of those who pre- 
ceded, and in turn conditions the sin of those who 
follow." 1 

Ritschl, another incisive and original theological 
thinker, adopted this solidaristic conception of sin, and 
its correlated ideas in the doctrine of salvation, as the 
basis of his theological system. He thinks that this, 

1 Schleiermacher, " Der Christliche Glaube," § 71, 2. 3d edition. 
The translation and italics are mine. A few unessential phrases 
are omitted to shorten the quotation. 


and not the theory of subjective religion which is com- 
monly quoted in connection with his name, is Schleier- 
macher's epoch-making contribution to theology.^ Cer- 
tainly the passage I have quoted shows what a capacity 
of religious vision is evoked by a religious comprehen- 
sion of the solidarity of human life. " The conscious- 
ness of solidarity is one of the fundamental conditions 
of religion, without which it can neither be rightly un- 
derstood nor rightly lived." ^ 

1 Ritschl, " Rechtfertigung und Versohnung," I, p. 555. 

2 Ritschl, I, p, 496. 



We take up now the doctrine of salvation. All that 
has been said about sin will have to be kept in mind in 
discussing salvation, for the conceptions of sin and sal- 
vation are always closely correlated in every theological 
or religious system. 

The new thing in the social gospel is the clearness and 
insistence with which it sets forth the necessity and the 
possibility of redeeming the historical life of humanity 
from the social wrongs which now pervade it and which 
act as temptations and incitements to evil and as forces 
of resistance to the powers of redemption. Its chief in- 
terest is concentrated on those manifestations of sin and 
redemption which lie beyond the individual soul. If our 
exposition of the superpersonal agents of sin and of the 
Kingdom of Evil is true, then evidently a salvation con- 
fined to the soul and its personal interests is an imper- 
fect and only partly effective salvation. 

Yet the salvation of the individual is, of course, an 
essential part of salvation. Every new being is a new 
problem of salvation. It is always a great and wonder- 
ful thing when a young spirit enters into voluntary obedi- 
ence to God and feels the higher freedom with which 
Christ makes us free. It is one of the miracles of life. 
The burden of the individual is as heavy now as ever. 



The consciousness of wrong-doing, of imperfection, of a 
wasted life lies on many and they need forgiveness and 
strength for a new beginning. Modern pessimism drains 
the finer minds of their confidence in the world and the 
value of life itself. At present we gasp for air in a 
crushing and monstrous world. Any return of faith is 
an experience of salvation. 

Therefore our discussion can not pass personal salva- 
tion by. We might possibly begin where the old gospel 
leaves off, and ask our readers to take all the familiar 
experiences and truths of personal evangelism and re- 
ligious nurture for granted in what follows. But our 
understanding of personal salvation itself is deeply af- 
fected by the new solidaristic comprehension furnished 
by the social gospel. 

The social gospel furnishes new tests for religious ex- 
perience. We are not disposed to accept the converted 
souls whom the individualistic evangelism supplies, with- 
out looking them over. Some who have been saved and 
perhaps reconsecrated a number of times are worth no 
more to the Kingdom of God than they were before. 
Some become worse through their revival experiences, 
more self-righteous, more opinionated, more steeped in 
unrealities and stupid over against the most important 
things, more devoted to emotions and unresponsive to 
real duties. We have the highest authority for the fact 
that men may grow worse by getting religion. Jesus 
says the Pharisees compassed sea and land to make a 
proselyte, and after they had him, he was twofold more 
a child of hell than his converters. To one whose mem- 


cries run back twenty or thirty years, to Moody's time, 
the methods now used by some evangeHsts seem calcu- 
lated to produce skin-deep changes. Things have sim- 
mered down to signing a card, shaking hands, or being 
iritro3uced to the evangelist. We used to pass through 
some deep-soil ploughing by comparison. It is time to 
overhaul our understanding of the kind of change we 
hope to produce by personal conversion and regenera- 
tion. The social gospel furnishes some tests and 

When we undertook to define the nature of sin, we 
accepted the old definition, that sin is selfishness and 
rebellion against God, but we insisted on putting human- 
ity into the picture. The definition of sin as selfishness 
gets its reality and nipping force only when we see hu- 
manity as a great solidarity and God indwelling in it. 
In the same way the terms and definitions of salvation 
get more realistic significance and ethical reach when we 
see the internal crises of the individual in connection with 
the social forces that play upon him or go out from him. 
The form which the process of redemption takes in a 
given personality will be determined by the historical 
and social spiritual environment of the man. At any 
rate any religious experience in which our fellow-men 
have no part or thought, does not seem to be a distinct- 
ively Christian experience. 

If sin is selfishness, salvation must be a change which 
turns a man from self to God and humanity. His sin- 
fulness consisted in a selfish attitude, in which he was 
at the centre of the universe, and God and all his fellow- 
men were means to serve his pleasures, increase his 


wealth, and set off his egotisms. Complete salvation, 
therefore, would consist in an attitude of love in which 
he would freely co-ordinate his life with the life of his 
fellows in obedience to the loving impulses of the spirit 
of God, thus taking his part in a divine organism of 
mutual service. When a man is in a state of sin, he may 
be willing to harm the life and lower the self-respect of 
a woman for the sake of his desires; he may be willing 
to take some of the mental and spiritual values out of 
the life of a thousand families, and lower the human level 
of a whole mill-town in order to increase his own divi- 
dends or maintain his autocratic sense of power. If 
this man came under the influence of the mind of Christ, 
he would see men and women as children of God with 
divine worth and beauty, and this realization would cool 
his lust or covetousness. Living now in the conscious- 
ness of the pervading spiritual life of God, he would 
realize that all his gifts and resources are a loan of God 
for higher ends, and would do his work with greater 
simplicity of mind and brotherliness. 

Of course in actual life there is no case of complete 
Christian transformation. It takes an awakened and 
regenerated mind a long time to find itself intellectually 
and discover what life henceforth is to mean to him, and 
his capacity for putting into practice what he knows he 
wants to do, will be something like the capacity of an 
untrained hand to express artistic imaginations. But in 
some germinal and rudimentary form salvation must turn 
us from a life centred on ourselves toward a life going 
out toward God and men. God is the all-embracing 
source and exponent of the common life and good of 


mankind. When we submit to God, we submit to the 
supremacy of the common good. Salvation is the vol- 
untary socializing of the soul. 

Conversion has usually been conceived as a break with 
our own sinful past. But in many cases it is also a break 
with the sinful past of a social group. Suppose a boy 
has been joining in cruel or lustful actions because his 
gang regards such things as fine and manly. If later he 
breaks with such actions, he will not only have to wrestle 
with his own habits, but with the social attractiveness 
and influence of his little humanity. If a working man 
becomes an abstainer, he will find out that intolerance is 
not confined to the good. In primitive Christianity bap- 
tism, stood for a conscious break with pagan society. 
This gave it a powerful spiritual reaction. Conversion 
is most valuable if it throws a revealing light not only 
across our own past, but across the social life of which 
we are part, and makes our repentance a vicarious sor- 
row for all. The prophets felt so about the sins of their 
nation. Jesus felt so about Jerusalem, and Paul about 
unbelieving Israel. 

We call our religious crisis " conversion " when we 
think of our own active break with old habits and asso- 
ciations and our turning to a new life. Paul introduced 
the forensic term "justification" into our religious vocab- 
ulary to express a changed legal status before God; his 
term " adoption " expresses the same change in terms de- 
rived from family life. We call the change "regenera- 
tion" when we think of it as an act of God within us, 
creating a new life. 



The classical passage on regeneration (John iii) con- 
nects it with the Kingdom of God. Only an inward new 
birth will enable us to ''see the Kingdom of God" and 
to "enter the Kingdom of God." The larger vision and 
the larger contact both require a new development of 
our spirit. In our unregenerate condition the conscious- 
ness of God is weak, occasional, and suppressed. The 
more Jesus Christ becomes dominant in us, the more 
does the light and life of God shine steadily in us, and 
create a religious personality which we did not have. 
Life is lived under a new synthesis. 

It is strange and interesting that regeneration is thus 
connected with the Kingdom of God in John iii. The 
term has otherwise completely dropped out of the termin- 
ology of the fourth gospel. If we have here a verbatim 
memory of a saying of Jesus, the survival would indi- 
cate how closely the idea of personal regeneration was 
originally bound up with the Kingdom hope. When 
John the Baptist first called men to conversion and a 
change of mind, all his motives and appeals were taken 
from the outlook toward the Kingdom. Evidently the 
entire meaning of " conversion " and " regeneration " was 
subtly changed when the conception of the Kingdom dis- 
appeared from Christian thought. The change in our- 
selves was now no longer connected with a great divine 
change in humanity, for which we must prepare and get 
fit. If we are converted, what are we converted to? If 
we are regenerated, does the scope of so divine a trans- 
formation end in our " going to heaven " ? The nexus, 
between our religious experience and humanity seems 


gone when the Kingdom of God is not present in the idea 
of regeneration. 

Through the experience and influence of Paul the word 
" faith " has gained a central place in the terminology of 
salvation. Its meaning fluctuates according to the domi- 
nant conception of religion. With Paul it was a compre- 
hensive mystical symbol covering his whole inner experi- 
ence of salvation and emancipation, which flooded his 
soul with joy and power. On the other hand wherever 
doctrine becomes rigid and is the pre-eminent thing in 
religion, '* faith " means submission of the mind to the 
affirmations of dogma and theology, and, in particular, 
acceptance of the plan of salvation and trust in the vi- 
carious atonement of Christ. Where the idea of the 
Church dominates religion, " faith " means mainly sub- 
mission to the teaching and guidance of the Church. In 
popular religion it may shrivel up to something so small 
as putting a finger on a Scripture text and "claiming 
the promise." 

In primitive Christianity the forward look of expect- 
ancy was characteristic of religion. The glory of the 
coming dawn was on the Eastern clouds. This influ- 
enced the conception of " faith." It was akin to hope, 
the forward gaze of the pioneers. The historical illus- 
traditions of faith in Hebrews xi show faith launching life 
toward the unseen future. 

This is the aspect of faith which is emphasized by the 
social gospel. It is not so much the endorsement of ideas 
formulated in the past, as expectancy and confidence in 


the coming salvation of God. In this respect the for- 
ward look of primitive Christianity is resumed. Faith 
once more means prophetic vision. It is faith to as- 
sume that this is a good world and that life is worth 
living. It is faith to assert the feasibility of a fairly 
righteous and fraternal social order. In the midst of a 
despotic and predatory industrial life it is faith to stake 
our business future on the proposition that fairness, kind- 
ness, and fraternity will work. When war inflames a 
nation, it is faith to believe that a peaceable disposition is 
a workable international policy. Amidst the disunion of 
Christendom it is faith to look for unity and to express 
unity in action. It is faith to see God at work in the 
world and to claim a share in his job. Faith is an ener- 
getic act of the will, affirming our fellowship with God 
and man, declaring our solidarity with the Kingdom of 
God, and repudiating selfish isolation. 

' "Sanctification," according to almost any definition, is 
the continuation of that process of spiritual education 
and transformation, *by which a human personality be- 
comes a willing organ of the spirit of Christ. Those 
who believe in the social gospel can share in any methods 
for the cultivation of the spiritual life, if only they have 
an ethical outcome. The social gospel takes up the 
message of the Hebrew prophets, that ritual and emo- 
tional religion is harmful unless it results in righteous- 
ness. Sanctification is through increased fellowship with 
God and man. But fellowship is impossible without an 
exchange of service. Here we come back to our previous 
proposition that the Kingdom of God is the common- 


wealth of co-operative service and that the most com- 
mon form of sinful selfishness is the effort to escape from 
labor. Sanctification, therefore, can not be attained in 
an unproductive life, unless it is unproductive through 
necessity. In the long run the only true way to gain 
moral insight, self-discipline, humility, love, and a con- 
sciousness of coherence and dependence, is to take our 
place among those who serve one another by useful labor. 
Parasitism blinds; work reveals. 

The fact that the social gospel is a distinct type of 
religious experience is proved by comparing it with mys- 
ticism. In most other types of Christianity the mystic 
experience is rated as the highest form of sanctification. 
In Catholicism the monastic life is the way of perfection, 
and mystic rapture is the highest attainment and reward 
of monastic contemplation and service. In Protestantism, 
which has no monastic leisure for mystic exercises, mys- 
ticism is of a homelier type, but in almost every group 
of believers there are some individuals who profess to 
have attained a higher stage of sanctification through " a 
second blessing," " the higher life,'* " complete sanctifica- 
tion," " perfect love," Christian science, or Theosophy. 
The literature and organizations ministering to this mys- 
tical life, go on the assumption that it far transcends the 
ordinary way in spiritual blessings and sanctifying power. 

Mysticism is a steep short-cut to communion with God. 
There Is no doubt that under favorable conditions it has 
produced beautiful results of unselfishness, humility, and 
andauntable courage. Its danger is that it isolates. In 
energetic mysticism the soul concentrates on God, shuts 


out the world, and is conscious only of God and itself. 
In its highest form, even the consciousness of self is 
swallowed up in the all-filling possession of God. No 
wonder it is absorbing and wonderful. But we have 
to turn our back on the world to attain this experience, 
and when we have attained it, it makes us indifferent to 
the world. What does Time matter when we can live 
in Eternity? What gift can this world offer us after 
we have entered into the luminous presence of God? 

The mystic way to holiness is not through humanity 
but above it. We can not set aside the fundamental law 
of God that way. He made us for one another, and our 
highest perfection comes not by isolation but by love. 
The way of holiness through human fellowship and serv- 
ice is slower and lowlier, but its results are more essen- 
tially Christian. Paul dealt with the mystic phenomena 
of religion when he dealt with the charismata of primi- 
tive Christianity, especially with glossolalia (i Cor. 
xii-xiv). It is a striking fact that he ranks the spir- 
itual gifts not according to their mystic rapture, but ac- 
cording to their rational control and their power of serv- 
ing others. His great chapter on love dominates the 
whole discussion and is offered as a counter-poise and 
antidote to the dangers of mysticism.^ 

Mysticism is not the maturest form of sanctification. 

1 1 have set this forth fully in my little book, " Dare We Be 
Christians?" (Pilgrim Press, Boston.) In my "Prayers of the 
Social Awakening" (Pilgrim Press), I have tried to connect the 
social consciousness with the devotional life by prayers envision- 
ing social groups and movements. Professor Herrmann's " The 
Communion of the Christian with God " deals with the difference 
of the mystic way and the way of service. 


As Professor Royce well says : '' It is the always young, it 
is the childlike, it is the essentially immature aspect of 
the deeper religious life. Its ardor, its pathos, its illu- 
sions, and its genuine illuminations have all the char- 
acters of youth about them, characters beautiful, but 
capricious." ^ There is even question whether mysti- 
cism proper, with rapture and absorption, is Christian in 
its antecedents, or Platonic. 

I believe in prayer and meditation in the presence of 
God; in the conscious purging of the soul from fear, 
love of gain, and selfish ambition, through realizing God; 
in bringing the intellect into alignment with the mind of 
Christ; and in re-affirming the allegiance of the will to 
the Kingdom of God. When a man goes up against 
hard work, conflict, loneliness, and the cross, it is his 
right to lean back on the Eternal and to draw from the 
silent reservoirs. But what we get thus is for use. Per- 
sonal sanctification must serve the Kingdom of God. 
Any mystic experience which makes our fellow-men less 
real and our daily labour less noble, is dangerous religion. 
A religious experience is not Christian unless it binds us 
closer to men and commits us more deeply to the King- 
dom of God. 

Thus the fundamental theological terms about the ex- 
periences of salvation get a new orientation, correction, 
and enrichment through the religious point of view con- 
tained in the social gospel. These changes would effect 
an approximation to the spirit and outlook of primitive 
Christianity, going back of Catholicism and Protestantism 
1 Royce, *' Problem of Christianity," I, p. 400. 


The definitions we have attempted are not merely aca- 
demic and hypothetical exercises. Religion is actually 
being experienced in such ways. 

._ la the Bible„ W-e_have„seyeral^ accounts of religious ex- 
periences which were fundamental in the life of its great- 
est characters. A few are told in their own striking 
phrases. Others are described by later writers, and in 
that case indicate what popular opinion expected such 
men to experience. Now, none of these experiences, 
so far as I see, are of that solitary type in which a soul 
struggles for its own salvation in order to escape the 
penalties of sin or to attain perfection and peace for 
itself. All were experienced with a conscious outlook 
toward humanity. When Moses saw the glory of God 
in the flaming bush and learned the ineffable name of 
the Eternal, it was not the salvation of Moses which 
was in question but the salvation of his people from the 
bondage of Egypt. When young Samuel first heard the 
call of the Voice in the darkness, it spoke to him of 
priestly extortion and the troubled future of his people. 
When Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord above the Cheru- 
bim, he realized by contrast that he was a man of unclean 
lips, but also that he dwelt among a people of unclean 
lips. His cleansing and the dedication which followed 
were his preparation for taking hold of the social situa- 
tion of his nation. In Jeremiah we are supposed to have 
the attainment of the religion of the individual, but even 
his intimate experiences were all in full view of the fate 
of his nation. Paul's experience at Damascus was the 
culmination of his personal struggle and his emergence 
into spiritual freedom. But his crisis got its intensity 


from its social background. He was deciding, so far as 
he was concerned, between the old narrow nationalistic 
religion of conservative Judaism and a wider destiny for 
his people, between the validity of the Law and spiritual 
liberty, between the exclusive claims of Israel on the 
Messianic hope and a world-wide participation in the 
historical prerogatives of the first-born people. The 
issues for which his later life stood were condensed in 
the days at Damascus, as we can see from his own recital 
in Galatians i, and these religious issues were the funda- 
mental social questions for his nation at that time. 

We can not afford to rate this group of religious ex- 
periences at a low value. As with us all, the theology of 
the prophets was based on their personal experiences. 
Out of them grew their ethical monotheism and their 
God-consciousness. This was the highest element in the 
spiritual heritage of his people which came to Jesus. He 
re-interpreted and perfected it in his personality, and 
in that form it has remained the highest factor among 
the various historical strains combined in our religion. 

These prophetic experiences were not superficial. 
There was soul-shaking emotion, a deep sense of sin, faith 
in God, longing for him, self -surrender, enduement with 
spiritual power. Yet they were not ascetic, not indi- 
vidualistic, not directed toward a future life. They were 
social, political, solidaristic. 

The religious experiences evoked by the social gospel 
belong to the same type, though deeply modified, of 
course, by the profound differences between their age and 
ours. What the wars and oppressions of Israel and 
Judah meant to them, the wars and exploitations of mod- 


ern civilization mean to us. In these things God speaks 
to our souls. When we face these questions we meet 
God. An increasing number of young men and women, 
— and some of the best of them — are getting their call 
to repentance, to a new way of life, and to the conquest 
of self in this way, and a good many older men are su- 
perimposing a new experience on that of their youth. 

Other things being equal, a solidaristic religious ex- 
perience is more distinctively Christian than an indi- 
vidualistic religious experience. To be afraid of hell or 
purgatory and desirous of a life without pain or trouble 
in heaven was not in itself Christian. It was self-inter- 
est on, a higher level. It is not strange that men were 
wholly intent on saving themselves as long as such dan- 
gers as Dante describes were real to their minds. A man 
might be pardoned for forgetting his entire social con- 
sciousness if he found himself dangling over a blazing 
pit. But even in more spiritual forms of conversion, 
as long as men are wholly intent on their own destiny, 
they do not necessarily emerge from selfishness. It only 
changes its form. A Christian regeneration must have 
an outlook toward humanity and result in a higher social 

/'The saint of the future will need not only a theocen- 
tric mysticism which enables him to realize God, but an 
anthropocentric mysticism which enables him to realize 
his fellow-men in God. The more we approach pure 
Christianity, the more will the Christian signify a man 
who loves mankind with a religious passion and excludes 
none. The feeling which Jesus had when he said, *T am 



the hungry, the naked, the lonely," will be in the emo- 
tional consciousness of all holy men in the coming days. 
The sense of solidarity is one of the distinctive marks of 
the true followers of Jesus. 



In discussing the doctrine of sin we faced the fact that 
redemption will have to deal not only with the weakness 
of flesh and blood, but with the strength of principalities 
and powers.^ Beyond the feeble and short-lived indi- 
vidual towers the social group as a super-personal entity, 
dominating the individual, assimilating him to its moral 
standards, and enforcing them by the social sanctions of 
approval or disapproval. 

When these super-personal forces are based on an evil 
principle, or directed toward an evil purpose, or cor- 
rupted by some controlling group interest which is hos- 
tile to the common good, they are sinners of sublimer 
mould, and they block the way of redemption. They are 
to us what demonic personalitiesWere to earlier Chris- 
tian minds. Men of religious vision have always seen 
social communities in that way. The prophets dealt with 
Israel and Judah, with Moab and Assyria, as with per- 
sonalities having a continuous life and spirit and destiny. 
Jesus saw Jerusalem as a man might see a beloved woman 
who is driven by haughtiness and self-will into tragic 

In our age these super-personal social forces present 
more difficult problems than ever before. The scope 

1 Chapter VIIL 



and diversity of combination is becoming constantly 
greater. The strategy of the Kingdom of God is short- 
sighted indeed if it does not devote thought to their sal- 
vation and conversion. 

The salvation of the composite personalities, like that 
of individuals, consists in coming under the law of 
Christ. A few illustrations will explain how this applies. 

Two principles are contending with each other for 
future control in the field of industrial and commercial 
organization, the capitalistic and the co-operative. The 
effectiveness of the capitalistic method in the production 
of wealth is not questioned; modern civilization is evi- 
dence of it. But we are also familiar with capitalistic 
methods in the production of human wreckage. Its 
one-sided control of economic power tempts to exploita- 
tion and oppression; it directs the productive process of 
society primarily toward the creation of private profit 
rather than the service of human needs ; it demands auto- 
cratic management and strengthens the autocratic prin- 
ciple in all social affairs ; it has impressed a materialistic 
spirit on our whole civilization. 

On the other hand organizations formed on the co- 
operative principle are not primarily for profit but for the 
satisfaction of human wants, and the aim is to distribute 
ownership, control, and economic benefits to a large num- 
ber of co-operators. 

The difference between a capitalistic organization and 
a co-operative comes out clearly in the distribution of vot- 
ing power. Capitalistic joint stock companies work on 
the plan of " one share, one vote." Therewith power is 


located in money. One crafty person who has a hun- 
dred shares can outvote ninety-nine righteous men who 
have a share apiece, and a small minority can outvote all 
the rest if it holds a majority of stock. Money is 
stronger than life, character, and personality. 

Co-operatives work on the plan of *' one man, one 
vote." A man who holds one share has as much voting 
power as a man with ten shares ; his personality counts. 
If a man wants to lead and direct, he can not do it by 
money power; he must do it by character, sobriety, and 
good judgment. The small stockholders are not passive ; 
they take part ; they must be persuaded and taught. The 
superior ability of the capable can not outvote the rest, 
but has to train them. Consequently the co-operatives 
develop men and educate a community in helpful loy- 
alty and comradeship. This is the advent of true democ- 
racy in economic life. Of course the co-operative prin- 
ciple is not a sovereign specific; the practical success of 
a given association depends on good judgment and the 
loyalty of its constituents. But the co-operatives, man- 
aged by plain men, often with little experience, have not 
only held their own in Europe against the picked sur- 
vivors of the capitalistic competitive battle, but have 
forged steadily ahead into enormous financial totals, have 
survived and increased even during the war, and by 
their helpful moral influence have gone a long way to 
restore a country like Ireland which had long been 
drained and ruined by capitalism. 

Here, I think, we have the difference between saved 
and unsaved organizations. The one class is under the 
law of Christ, the other under the law of mammon. The 


one IS democratic and the other autocratic. Whenever 
capitalism has invaded a new country or industry, there 
has been a speeding up in labor and in the production of 
vi^ealth, but always with a trail of human misery, discon- 
tent, bitterness, and demoralization. When co-opera- 
tion has invaded a country there has been increased thrift, 
education, and neighborly feeling, and there has been no 
trail of concomitant evil and no cries of protest. The 
men in capitalistic business may be the best of men, far 
superior in ability to the average committee member of 
a co-operative, but the latter type of organization is the 
higher, and when co-operation has had as long a time 
to try out its methods as capitalism, the latter will rank 
with feudalism as an evil memory of mankind. 

Super-personal forces are saved when they come under 
the law of Christ. A State which uses its terrible power 
of coercion to smite and crush offenders as a protection 
to the rest, is still under brutal law. A State which 
deals with those who have erred in the way of teaching, 
discipline, and restoration, has come under the law of 
Christ and is to that extent a saved community. " By 
their fruits ye shall know them." States are known by 
their courts and prisons and contract labor systems, or 
by their juvenile courts and parole systems. A change 
in penology may be an evidence of salvation. 

A State which uses its superior power to overrun a 
weaker neighbor by force, or to wrest a valuable right 
of way from it by instigating a coup d'etat, or uses in- 
timidation to secure mining or railway concessions or to 
force a loan at usurious rates on a half-civilized State, is 
in mortal sin. A State which asks only for an open door 


and keeps its own door open in return, and which speaks 
as courteously to a backward State as to one with a big 
fleet, is to that extent a Christian community.^ 

With composite personalities as with individuals " the 
love of money is the root of all evil." Communities and 
nations fall into wild fits of anger and cruelty; they are 
vain and contemptuous of others; they lie and love lies; 
they sin against their critical conscience; they fall in 
love with virile and magnetic men just as women do. 
These are the temptations and dangers which every de- 
mocracy will meet and from which it will recover with 
loss and some shame. But, as has been said before, evils 
become bold and permanent when there is money in them. 
It was the need of protecting wealth against poverty 
which made the courts and the criminal law so cruel in 
the past. It was theological superstition which started 
the epidemic of witch trials in Europe, but it was the 
large fees that fell to the lawyers and informers which 
made that craze so enduring. Nearly all modern wars 
have had their origin in the covetousness of trade and 

If unearned gain is the chief corrupter of professions, 
institutions, and combinations of men, these super-per- 
sonal beings will be put on the road to salvation when 
their graft is in some way cut off and they are compelled 
to subsist on the reward of honest service. 

The history of the Church furnishes a striking exam- 

1 This matter of saving the community life has been discussed 
more fully in my book, " Christianizing the Social Order," the 
Macmillan Company, 1912. 

2 See historical instances in F. C. Howe, " Why War ? " 


pie. For generations before the Reformation the con- 
dition of the Church and of the ministry was the sorest 
social question of the time, weighing heavily on the 
conscience of all good men. The ministrations of the 
Church, the sacrament of the altar, the merit gained by 
the sacrifice of the mass, the penitential system, the prac- 
tice of indulgences, had been turned into means of great 
income to the Church and those who were in control of 
it. The rank and file of the priests and monks were from 
the common people, and their incomes were poor. But 
the higher positions of the Church and the wealthier mon- 
asteries were in possession of the upper classes, who 
filled the lucrative places with their younger sons or un- 
married daughters. Where rich sinecures existed and an 
immense patronage was in the gift of the higher church- 
men, the rake-off was naturally practised and perfected. 
Everyone who had paid for getting his position, recouped 
his investment. The highest institution of service had 
become the most glaring example of graft. Since the 
Church always resisted the interference of the laity, 
and since the oligarchy which surrounded the papacy was 
itself the chief beneficiary of the ecclesiastical graft, re- 
form was successfully blocked out, or quickly lapsed when 
it was attempted. 

It was this profit system in the Church which produced 
the religious unrest and finally the revolutionary upheaval 
of the Reformation in some nations. Men were not dis- 
satisfied with the doctrines of the Church. There were 
surprisingly few theological heretics. Wycliffe and his 
followers are the only ones that gained popular influence, 
and his chief interest, too, was in the social utilization of 


the wealth of the Church. Men like Savonarola were not 
doctrinal reformers, but were trying to cleanse the Church 
of its graft and the resulting idleness and vice. The ideal 
of *' the poverty of the Church," which was common to 
men so unlike as Saint Bernard, Arnold of Brescia, Saint 
Francis, and all the democratic sects, must be understood 
over against the vested wealth, the graft, and the semi- 
governmental power of the Church. They wanted the 
Church voluntarily to give up its wealth, and to put its 
ministers on the basis of service and the daily bread. 

The Church refused to take this heroic path of re- 
pentance of its own free will. So it was compelled to 
take it. In all the countries which officially adopted the 
Reformation, the possessions and vested incomes of the 
Church were secularized. The sinecures mostly disap- 
peared. The bishops lost their governmental functions. 
Everywhere the reform movements converged on this 
impoverishment of the Church with a kind of collective 
instinct. Luther's theses on indulgences got their popu- 
larity not by their new and daring theology, for they were 
a hesitating and wavering statement of a groping mind, — 
but by the fact that they touched one of the chief sources 
of papal income. Several of the great doctrines of the 
Reformation got their vitality by their internal connec- 
tion with the question of church property. 

The process of reformation which stripped the Church 
of its landed wealth and privileges was nothing beautiful. 
It was high-class looting. Only a small portion of the 
wealth was used to endow education and charity. Most 
of it was seized by kings, princes, and nobles. This gave 
a new lease of life to autocracy, and in England set up 


some of the splendid aristocratic families, who still con- 
sume what was once given to God. But this unholy pro- 
cedure did cleanse the Church and its ministry of graft. 
When there were few large incomes, the rake-off per- 
force ceased. A body of ministers developed who were 
on the whole educated, clean, and willing to serve to the 
best of their understanding on a meagre salary. A great 
profession had been saved. Its salvation did not come 
from theology, as theology would have us believe. 
Where the Roman Catholic clergy is on the basis of 
hard work and plain income, it has shown similar im- 
provement. The remedy which purified the ministry and 
the Church " so as by fire," was that " poverty of the 
Church " which the medieval reformers had demanded. 
The average minister will not be in doubt that he has 
married the Lady Poverty, and that this keeps him from 

The salvation of the super-personal beings is by com- 
ing under the law of Christ. The fundamental step of 
repentance and conversion for professions and organi- 
zations is to give up monopoly power and the incomes de- 
rived from legalized extortion, and to come under the 
law of service, content with a fair income for honest 
work. The corresponding step in the case of govern- 
ments and political oligarchies, both in monarchies and in 
capitalistic semi-democracies, is to submit to real democ- 
racy. Therewith they step out of the Kingdom of Evil 
into the Kingdom of God. 



What is the function of the Church in the process of 
salvation? What is it worth to a man to have the sup- 
port and guidance of the Church in saving his soul? 

If we listen to the Church's own estimate of itself it is 
worth as much as oxygen is to animal life. It is indis- 
pensable. *' Outside of the Church there is no salva- 
tion." Very early in its history the Church began to 
take a deep interest in itself and to assert high things 
about itself. Every community is inclined to develop an 
expanded self-consciousness if the opportunity is at all 
favorable, and the Christian Church has certainly not 
let its opportunity go begging. Some historian has said, 
it is a wonder that the Church has not been made a per- 
son in the Godhead. 

It is important to remember that when its high claims 
were first developed, they were really largely true. 
Christianity was in sharp opposition not only to the State 
but to the whole social life surrounding it. It created a 
Christian duplicate of the social order for its members, 
as far as it could. Christian influences were not yet 
diffused in society and literature. The Christian spirit 
and tradition could really be found nowhere except in 
the organized Christian groups. If the individual was 



to be impregnated with the saving power of Christianity, 
the Church had to do it. There was actually no salvation 
outside of the Church. But the statements in which men 
of the first generations expressed their genuine experience 
of what the Church meant to them, were turned into a 
theological formula and repeated in later times when the 
situation had changed, and when, for a time, the Church 
was not the supreme help but a great hindrance. The 
claims for the indispensability of the Church and its sac- 
raments and officers became more specific as the hier- 
archic Church developed. First no man could be saved 
outside of the Church ; next he could not be saved unless 
he was in right relation to his bishop ; and finally he could 
not be saved unless he submitted to the Roman pontiff. 

What are the functions of the Church in salvation, and 
how indispensable is it ? And what has the social gospel 
to say to the theological valuation of the Church? 

The Church is the social factor in salvation. It brings 
social forces to bear on evil. It offers Christ not only 
many human bodies and minds to serve as ministers of 
his salvation, but its own composite personality, with a 
collective memory stored with great hymns and Bible 
stories and deeds of heroism, with trained aesthetic and 
moral feelings, and with a collective will set on righteous- 
ness. A super-personal being organized around an evil 
principle and set on predatory aims is the most potent 
breeder of sin in individuals and in other communities. 
What, then, might a super-personal being do which would 
be organized around Jesus Christ as its impelling power, 
and would have for its sole or chief object to embody his 


Spirit in its life and to carry him into human thought and 
the conduct of affairs? 

If there had never been such an organization as the 
Christian Church, every great reHgious mind would 
dream of the possibility of creating something like it. 
He would imagine the happy life within it where men 
shared the impulses of love and the convictions about life 
which Jesus imparted to humanity. If he understood 
psychology and social science, he would see the possibili- 
ties of such a social group in arousing and guiding the 
unformed spiritual aspirations of the young and reinforc- 
ing wayward consciences by the approval or disapproval 
of the best persons, and its power of reaching by free 
loyalty springs of action and character lying too deep 
for civil law and even for education to stir. He might 
well imagine too how the presence of such a social group 
would quicken and balance the civil and political com- 

How far the actualities of church life fall short of 
such an ideal forecast, most of us know but too well. 
But even so, the importance of the social factor in salva- 
tion is clear from whatever angle we look at it. What 
chance would a disembodied spirit of Christianity have, 
whispering occasionally at the key-hole of the human 
heart? Nothing lasts unless it is organized, and if it 
is organized of human life, we must put up with the 
qualities of human life in it. 

Within the field it has chosen to cultivate, the local 
church under good leadership is really a power of salva- 
tion. During the formative years of our national growth 
the churches gathered up the available resources of edu- 


cation, history, philosophy, eloquence, art, and music, and 
established social centres controlled by the highest pos- 
sessions known to people whose other resources were the 
family, money, gossip, the daily paper, and the inevitable 
vices. The great ideas of the spiritual hfe — God, the 
soul, duty, sin, holiness, eternity — would today be wholly 
absent in many minds, and in most others would be but 
flickering lights, if the local churches did not cherish and 
affirm them, and make them glorious and persuasive by 
the most effective combination of social influences ever 
accumulated by any organization during a history last- 
ing for centuries and spread through many nations. 

We are so accustomed to the churches that we hardly 
realize what a social force they exert over the minds they 
do influence. If we could observe a native Christian 
church in a pagan people, after the Christian organization 
is once in operation as a social organism, and is weaning 
families and village communities from pagan customs 
and assimilating them to the new ideas, we should realize 
better the power of conservation exerted in our own 
communities.^ The new religion of Christian Science 
provides another chance for such a realization. It ex- 
pounds a new religious book alongside of the Bible, and 
a new prophet alongside of Christ, and thus creates a 
novel religious consciousness among its own people. It 
has taken many nervous, unhappy, and burdened persons, 
and has given health to their bodies and calmness and 

1 " Social Christianity in the Orient," by Emma Rauschenbusch 
Clough, Ph.D. CMacmillan Company) is a striking narrative of 
the revolutionary effect of the introduction of Christianity in an 
Indian pariah tribe. 


self-control to their minds by attacking and subduing 
their souls with a dogmatic faith, till they learn to con- 
tradict the rheumatic facts. of life and to ignore even 
the presence of death by looking the other way. If we 
could see the old churches as clearly as we see this new 
church, we should realize their power. 

The men who stand for the social gospel have been 
among the most active critics of the churches because 
they have realized most clearly both the great needs of 
our social life and the potential capacities of the Church 
to meet them. Their criticism has been a form of com- 
pliment to the Church. I think they may yet turn out to 
be the apologists whom the Church most needs at present. 
They are best fitted to see that while the Church influ- 
ences society, society has always influenced the Church, 
and that the Church, when it has dropped to the level of 
its environment, has simply yielded to the law of social 
gravitation. This is true of the delinquencies of the 
Church in past ages, which lie heavily on our minds when 
we want to describe the Church as the great organism of 
salvation. Those whose expectations are created by the 
claims of the Church about itself may well be profoundly 
disappointed when they go through some of the bad 
chapters of Church History. If they have to judge it 
by its own absolute religious criteria as the body of 
Christ and the exponent of his spirit, the gap between 
the ideal and the reality is painful. The fact is that the 
Church has watered its own stock and can not pay divi- 
dends on all the paper it has issued. It has made claims 
for itself to which no organization composed of humans 
can live up. If we see it simply as an attempt to give 


social expression to the life derived from Christ, we shall 
not feel too deeply disappointed when we see it fail. 
True social insight knows that its sins were always the 
sins of the age. If the Church was autocratic and op- 
pressive, so were all governments. There was graft in 
the Church, but the feudal aristocracy was founded on 
graft, and it never fought it as the Church fought simony. 

A fresh understanding for the indispensableness of the 
Church is gaining ground today in Protestant theology in 
spite of the increased knowledge of the past and present 
failures of the Church. This is an attempt to overcome 
the exaggerated individualism into which Protestantism 
was thrust by the violent reactions of the Reformation. 
When men were in the throes of a revolution against a 
Church which claimed everything, they naturally denied 
every claim by which the enemy could brace its authority. 
They denied the authority of the tradition and decrees of 
the Church and made the Bible the sole source of truth. 
They denied the doctrine of the eucharist because the 
mass was the chief monopoly right from which the Church 
drew material income and spiritual reverence. They em- 
phasized and elaborated the doctrine of election because 
it effectively eliminated the middle-man in salvation ; for 
it put man into direct contact with the source of salvation, 
and made the decree of salvation wholly independent of 
any human act or church mediation. But the result of 
this great polemical reaction against the Church was a 
system of religious individualism in which the social 
forces of salvation were slighted, and God and the indi- 
vidual were almost the only realities in sight. 


Of course in actual practice the Protestant churches 
exercised very stout control over their members. Calvin, 
in a celebrated passage of the Institutes comes close to a 
social appreciation of the functions of the Church: 

" But, as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible 
Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how use- 
ful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is 
no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in 
the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, 
and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, 
divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels. — Moreover, 
beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salva« 
tion, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify. — The paternal 
favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are con- 
fined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the 
Church is always fatal." ^ 

But all of us who have had to acquire our social and 
historical comprehension laboriously will appreciate how 
little the old Protestant system stimulated and developed 
the understanding of the social factor in redemption. 

The individualism of Reformation theology is being 
overcome by a new insistence on the importance of the 
Church. This trend of thought is not due, as in Anglican 
theology, to a renascence of Catholicism, but to a com- 
bination of purified Protestantism and modern social in- 
sight.- I have been struck by the eminence of some of 
the prophets of this new solidaristic strain in theology. 

Schleiermacher in his earlier " Reden iiber die Re- 
ligion " still interpreted the religious sense of depend- 
ence as an individual experience. Maturer reflection 
showed him that all personal life is determined by the 
spirit of the community with which it is organically con- 
1 Calvin, " Institutes of the Christian Religion," Book IV, i, 4. 


nected. This is true of the religious life too. Our sin 
is due to the feebleness with which we realize God. Jesus 
lived in complete and unbroken consciousness of God. 
Contact with him can so strengthen the God-consciousness 
in us that we are able to overcome the power of sin and 
rise to newness of life. But the memory of his life and 
the consciousness of salvation in him are transmitted to 
us only by the Church. We share his consciousness by 
sharing the common faith and experience of the Church. 
The new life of the individual is mediated by the social 
organism which is already in possession of that life. 

" The Protestant theology of our age rests on the foun- 
dation laid by Schleiermacher ; all theologians — some 
directly, some more indirectly — are seeking to establish 
the connections between the religious personality of the 
individual and the common consciousness of the 
Church." 1 

Ritschl, the most vigorous and influential theological 
intellect in Germany since Schleiermacher, is evidence of 
this. He abandoned the doctrine of original sin but 
substituted the solidaristic conception of the Kingdom 
of Evil. He held that salvation is embodied in a com- 
munity which has experienced salvation; the faith of 
the individual is part of the faith of the Church. The 
Church and not the individual is the object of justifica- 
tion; the assurance of forgiveness for the individual is 
based on his union with the Church. 

In American thought the most striking utterance on 
the indispensable importance of the Church in salvation 

1 Pfleiderer, Glaubens-und Sittenlehre. § 55. 


has come from an eminent outsider, a philosopher and 
not a theologian, Professor Royce. He had worked out 
" the philosophy of loyalty " in other fields, and then 
appHed it to religion in " the Problem of Christianity " 
( 1913). This book is the mature product of his life, and 
its argument is evidently uplifted by the conviction that 
he had discovered some highly important facts. 

Professor Royce, as has been said before, held that 
there are in the human world two profoundly different 
grades or levels of mental beings, namely individuals and 
communities, and he calls it the most significant of all 
moral and religious truths '' that a community, when uni- 
fied by an active, indwelling purpose, is an entity more 
concrete and less mysterious than any individual man, 
and can love and be loved as a husband and wife love/' 
What is love between man and man, becomes loyalty 
when it goes out from a man to his community. 

Professor Royce felt profoundly on the sin of the in- 
dividual. " The individual human being is by nature 
subject to some overwhelming moral burden, from 
which, if unaided, he can not escape. Both because of 
what has been technically called original sin, and because 
of the sins that he himself has committed, the individual 
is doomed to a spiritual ruin from which only a divine 
intervention can save him." (Lecture III.) He '' can- 
not unaided win the true goal of life. Help must come 
to him from some source above his own level." 

The individual is saved, if at all, by membership in a 
community which has salvation. When a man becomes 
loyal to a community, he identifies himself with its life; 
he appropriates its past history and memories, its experi- 


ences and hopes, and absorbs its spirit and faith. This 
is the power which can Hft him above his own level. 

The Christian religion possesses such a community. 
It first comes into full view in the Pauline epistles. How 
it originated is a mystery like the origin of life, for loy- 
alty is always evoked by the loyalty of those who already 
have it. Paul did not create it; he only formulated its 

Professor Royce thinks the creation of the Church was 
the most important event in the history of Christianity. 
Not Christ but the Church is the central idea of Chris- 
tianity. He rates Jesus largely as an indispensable basis 
on which the Church could form and stand. He thinks 
we know little about him, and that Jesus defined the 
Christian ideas inadequately. But his name was the 
great symbol of loyalty for the Church. The doctrines 
about him were developed because they were necessary 
for the consolidation of the Church. 

This slighting of Jesus is one of the most unsatisfac- 
tory elements in Royce's thought. If the awakening of 
loyalty is ** a spiritual triumph beyond the wit of man ;" 
if '' you are first made loyal through the power of some 
one else who is loyal "; if " no social will can make the 
community lovable unless loyalty is previously effec- 
tive " ; then the origin of " the beloved community " is 
the great problem in the history of Christianity, and 
everything points to Jesus as the only solution. He per- 
formed the miracle of the origin of life. A proper evalu- 
ation of Jesus as the initiator would have been the natural 
and necessary consummation of this entire doctrine of 
salvation by loyalty. 



A tacit condition is attached to all the high claims 
made by Professor Royce and others on behalf of the 
Church: If the Church is to have saving power, it must 
embody Christ. He is the revolutionary force within it. 
The saving qualities of the Church depend on the question 
whether it has translated the personal life of Jesus Christ 
into the social life of its group and thus brings it to bear 
on the individual. If Christ is not in the Church, how 
does it differ from " the world " ? It will still assimilate 
its members, but it will not make them persons bearing 
the family likeness of the first-born son of God. 

Wherever the Church has lost the saving influence of 
Christ, it has lost its saltness and is a tasteless historical 
survival. Therewith all theological doctrines about it 
become untrue. Antiquity and continuity are no sub- 
stitute for the vitality of the Christ-spirit. Age, instead 
of being a presumption in favor of a religious body, is a 
question-mark set over against its name. The world 
is full of stale religion. It is historically self-evident 
that church bodies do lose the saving power. In fact, 
they may become social agencies to keep their people 
stupid, stationary, superstitious, bigotted, and ready to 
choke their first-born ideals and instincts as a sacrifice to 
the God of stationaryness whom their religious guides 
have imposed on them. Wherever an aged and proud 
Church sets up high claims as an indispensable institution 
of salvation, let it be tested by the cleanliness, education, 
and moral elasticity of the agricultural labourers whom 
it has long controlled, or of the slum dwellers who have 
long ago slipped out of its control. 


This conditional form of predicating the saving power 
and spiritual authority of the Church is only one more 
way of asserting that in anything which claims to be 
Christian, religion must have an immediate ethical nexus 
and effect. This marks an essential difference between 
the claims made for the Church in Catholic theology, 
and the emphasis on the functions of the Church made 
in the social gospel. The Catholic doctrine of the Church 
made its holiness, its power to forgive sin, and the effi- 
cacy of its sacraments independent of the moral char- 
acter of its priests and people ; the social conception makes 
everything conditional on the spiritual virtues of the 
church group. The Catholic conception stakes the claims 
of the Church and its clergy on the due legal succession 
and canonical ordination of its chief officers. This im- 
ports legal conceptions derived from the imperial Roman 
bureaucracy into the organism of the Christian Church, 
which has nothing to do with any bureaucracy. It gives 
an unquestioned status to some corrupt, venal, or ignorant 
bishop in Southern Italy ; miakes the ecclesiastical validity 
of the entire Anglican clergy dubious; and denies all 
standing to Chalmers, Spurgeon, or Asbury. The social 
gospel, on the other hand, tests the claims and powers 
of any Church by the continuity of the apostolic faith 
within it and by its possession of the law and spirit of 

The saving powxr of the Church does not rest on its 
institutional character, on its continuity, its ordination, 
its ministry, or its doctrine. It rests on the presence of 
the Kingdom of God within her. The Church grows 


old ; the Kingdom is ever young. The Church is a per- 
petuation of the past; the Kingdom is the power of the 
coming age. Unless the Church is vitalized by the ever 
nascent forces of the Kingdom within her, she deadens 
instead of begetting. 



If theology is to offer an adequate doctrinal basis for 
the social gospel, it must not only make room for the 
doctrine of the Kingdom of God, but give it a central 
place and revise all other doctrines so that they will ar- 
ticulate organically with it. 

This doctrine is itself the social gospel. Without it, 
the idea of redeeming the social order will be but an 
annex to the orthodox conception of the scheme of sal- 
vation. It will live like a negro servant family in a de- 
tached cabin back of the white man's house in the South. 
If this doctrine gets the place which has always been its 
legitimate right, the practical proclamation and applica- 
tion of social morality will have a firm footing. 

To those whose minds live in the social gospel, the 
Kingdom of God is a dear truth, the marrow of the gos- 
pel, just as the incarnation was to Athanasius, justifica- 
tion by faith alone to Luther, and the sovereignty of 
God to Jonathan Edwards. It was just as dear to Jesus. 
He too lived in it, and from it looked out on the world 
and the work he had to do. 

Jesus always spoke of the Kingdom of God. Only 
two of his reported sayings contain the word " Church," 
and both passages are of questionable authenticity. It 
is safe to say that he never thought of founding the kind 



of institution which afterward claimed to be acting for 

Yet immediately after his death, groups of disciples 
joined and consolidated by inward necessity. Each local 
group knew that it was part of a divinely founded fel- 
lowship mysteriously spreading through humanity, and 
awaiting the return of the Lord and the establishing of 
his Kingdom. This universal Church was loved with 
the same religious faith and reverence with which Jesus 
had loved the Kingdom of God. It was the partial and 
earthly realization of the divine Society, and at the Pa- 
rousia the Church and the Kingdom would merge. 

But the Kingdom was merely a hope, the Church a 
present reality. The chief interest and affection flowed 
toward the Church. Soon, through a combination of 
causes, the name and idea of " the Kingdom " began to 
be displaced by the name and idea of " the Church " in 
the preaching, literature, and theological thought of the 
Church. Augustine completed this process in his De 
Civitate Dei. The Kingdom of God which has, through- 
out human history, opposed the Kingdom of Sin, is to- 
day embodied in the Church. The millennium began 
when the Church was founded. This practically substi- 
tuted the actual, not the ideal Church for the Kingdom 
of God. The beloved ideal of Jesus became a vague 
phrase which kept intruding from the New Testament. 
Like Cinderella in the kitchen, it saw the other great 
dogmas furbished up for the ball, but no prince of theol- 
ogy restored it to its rightful place. The Reformation, 
too, brought no renascence of the doctrine of the King- 
dom; it had only eschatological value, or was defined in 


blurred phrases borrowed from the Church. The pres- 
ent revival of the Kingdom idea is due to the combined 
influence of the historical study of the Bible and of the 
social gospel. 

When the doctrine of the Kingdom of God shriveled 
to an undeveloped and pathetic remnant in Christian 
thought, this loss was bound to have far-reaching con- 
sequences. We are told that the loss of a single tooth 
from the arch of the mouth in childhood may spoil the 
symmetrical development of the skull and produce mal- 
formations affecting the mind and character. The 
atrophy of that idea which had occupied the chief place 
in the mind of Jesus, necessarily affected the conception 
of Christianity, the life of the Church, the progress of 
humanity, and the structure of theology. I shall briefly 
enumerate some of the consequences affecting theology. 
This list, however, is by no means complete. 

1. Theology lost its contact with the synoptic thought 
of Jesus. Its problems were not at all the same which 
had occupied his mind. It lost his point of view and 
became to some extent incapable of understanding him. 
His ideas had to be rediscovered in our time. Tradi- 
tional theology and the mind of Jesus Christ became in- 
commensurable quantities. It claimed to regard his reve- 
lation and the substance of his thought as divine, and 
yet did not learn to think like him. The loss of the King- 
dom idea is one key to this situation. 

2. The distinctive ethical principles of Jesus were the 
direct outgrowth of his conception of the Kingdom of 
God. When the latter disappeared from theology, the 


former disappeared from ethics. Only persons having 
the substance of the Kingdom ideal in their minds, seem 
to be able to get relish out of the ethics of Jesus. Only 
those church bodies which have been in opposition to 
organized society and have looked for a better city 
with its foundations in heaven, have taken the Sermon 
on the Mount seriously. 

3. The Church is primarily a fellowship for worship ; 
the Kingdom is a fellowship of righteousness. When 
the latter was neglected in theology, the ethical force of 
Christianity was weakened; when the former was em- 
phasized in theology, the importance of worship was ex- 
aggerated. The prophets and Jesus had cried down sac- 
rifices and ceremonial performances, and cried up right- 
eousness, mercy, solidarity. Theology now reversed 
this, and by its theoretical discussions did its best to 
stimulate sacramental actions and priestly importance. 
Thus the religious energy and enthusiasm which might 
have saved mankind from its great sins, were used up in 
hearing and endowing masses, or in maintaining competi- 
tive church organizations, while mankind is still stuck in 
the mud. There are nations in which the ethical condi- 
tion of the masses is the reverse of the frequency of the 
masses in the churches. 

4. When the Kingdom ceased to be the dominating 
religious reality, the Church moved up into the position 
of the supreme good. To promote the power of the 
Church and its control over all rival political forces was 
equivalent to promoting the supreme ends of Christian- 
ity. This increased the arrogance of churchmen and 
took the moral check off their policies. For the King- 


dom of God can never be promoted by lies, craft, crime 
or war, but the wealth and power of the Church have 
often been promoted by these means. The medieval 
ideal of the supremacy of the Church over the State was 
the logical consequence of making the Church the highest 
good with no superior ethical standard by which to test 
it. The medieval doctrines concerning the Church and 
the Papacy were the direct theological outcome of the 
struggles for Church supremacy, and were meant to be 
weapons in that struggle. 

5. The Kingdom ideal is the test and corrective of the 
influence of the Church. When the Kingdom ideal disap- 
peared, the conscience of the Church was muffled. It be- 
came possible for the missionary expansion of Chris- 
tianity to halt for centuries without creating any sense 
of shortcoming. It became possible for the most unjust 
social conditions to fasten themselves on Christian na- 
tions without awakening any consciousness that the pur- 
pose of Christ was being defied and beaten back. The 
practical undertakings of the Church remained within 
narrow lines, and the theological thought of the Church 
was necessarily confined in a similar way. The claims 
of the Church were allowed to stand in theology with no 
conditions and obligations to test and balance them. If 
the Kingdom had stood as the purpose for which the 
Church exists, the Church could not have fallen into 
such corruption and sloth. Theology bears part of the 
guilt for the pride, the greed, and the ambition of the 

6. The Kingdom ideal contains the revolutionary 
force of Christianity. When this ideal faded out of 


the systematic thought of the Church, it became a con- 
servative social influence and increased the weight of 
the other stationary forces in society. If the Kingdom 
of God had remained part of the theological and Chris- 
tian consciousness, the Church could not, down to our 
times, have been salaried by autocratic class governments 
to keep the democratic and economic impulses of the peo- 
ple under check. 

7. Reversely, the movements for democracy and social 
justice were left without a religious backing for lack of 
the Kingdom idea. The Kingdom of God as the fellow- 
ship of righteousness, would be advanced by the aboli- 
tion of industrial slavery and the disappearance of the 
slums of civilization; the Church would only indirectly 
gain through such social changes. Even today many 
Christians can not see any religious importance in social 
justice and fraternity because it does not increase the 
number of conversions nor fill the churches. Thus the 
practical conception of salvation, which is the effective 
theology of the common man and minister, has been cut 
back and crippled for lack of the Kingdom ideal. 

8. Secular life is belittled as compared with church 
life. Services rendered to the Church get a higher relig- 
ious rating than services rendered to the community.-^ 
Thus the religious value is taken out of the activities of 
the common man and the prophetic services to society. 
Wherever the Kingdom of God is a living reality in 

1 After the death of Susan B. Anthony a minister commented 
on her life, regretting that she was not orthodox in her beliefs. In 
the same address he spoke glowingly about a new linoleum laid in 
the church kitchen. 


Christian thought, any advance of social righteousness is 
seen as a part of redemption and arouses inward joy and 
the triumphant sense of salvation. When the Church ab- 
sorbs interest, a subtle asceticism creeps back into our 
theology and the world looks different. 

9. When the doctrine of the Kingdom of God is lack- 
ing in theology, the salvation of the individual is seen in 
its relation to the Church and to the future life, but not 
in its relation to the task of saving the social order. 
Theology has left this important point in a condition so 
hazy and muddled that it has taken us almost a generation 
to see that the salvation of the individual and the redemp- 
tion of the social order are closely related, and how. 

10. Finally, theology has been deprived of the inspi- 
ration of great ideas contained in the idea of the King- 
dom and in labor for it. The Kingdom of God breeds 
prophets; the Church breeds priests and theologians. 
The Church runs to tradition and dogma; the Kingdom 
of God rejoices in forecasts and boundless horizons. 
The men who have contributed the most fruitful im- 
pulses to Christian thought have been men of prophetic 
vision, and their theology has proved most effective for 
future times where it has been most concerned with past 
history, with present social problems, and with the future 
of human society. The Kingdom of God is to theology 
what outdoor colour and light are to art. It is impossible 
to estimate what inspirational impulses have been lost to 
theology and to the Church, because it did not develop 
the doctrine of the Kingdom of God and see the world 
and its redemption from that point of view. 


These are some of the historical effects which the 
loss of the doctrine of the Kingdom of God has inflicted 
on systematic theology. The chief contribution which 
the social gospel has made and will make to theology is 
to give new vitality and importance to that doctrine. In 
doing so it will be a reformatory force of the highest im- 
portance in the field of doctrinal theology, for any sys- 
tematic conception of Christianity must be not only 
defective but incorrect if the idea of the Kingdom of 
God does not govern it. 

The restoration of the doctrine of the Kingdom has 
already made progress. Some of the ablest and most 
voluminous works of the old theology in their thousands 
of pages gave the Kingdom of God but a scanty men- 
tion, usually in connection with eschatology, and saw no 
connection between it and the Calvinistic doctrines of 
personal redemption. The newer manuals not only make 
constant reference to it in connection with various doc- 
trines, but they arrange their entire subject matter so 
that the Kingdom of God becomes the governing idea. ^ 

1 William Adams Brown, " Christian Theology in Outline," p. 192 : 
" We -are "witTTessing- "to-day a reaction against this exaggerated 
individualism (of Reformation theology). It has become an axiom 
of modern thought that the government of God has social as well 
as individual significance, and the conception of the Kingdom of 
God — obscured in the earlier Protestantism — is coming again 
into the forefront of theological thought." See the discussion on 
" The View of the Kingdom in Modern Thought " which follows. 

Albrecht Ritschl, in his great monograph on Justification and 
Reconciliation, begins the discussion of his own views in Volume 
III (§2) by insisting that personal salvation .m.ust be organically 
connected with the Kingdom of God. He says (" Rechtfertigung 
und Versohnung," III, p. iii) : "Theology has taken a very un- 
equal interest in the two chief characteristics of Christianity. 
Everything pertaining to its character as the redemption of men 


In the following brief propositions I should Hke to 
offer a few suggestions, on behalf of the social gospel, 
for the theological formulation of the doctrine of the 
Kingdom. Something like this is needed to give us " a 
theology for the social gospel." 

I. The Kingdom of God is divine in its origin, prog- « 
ress and consummation. It was initiated by Jesus Christ, 
in whom the prophetic spirit came to its consummation, 
it is sustained by the Holy Spirit, and it will be brought 
to its fulfilment by the power of God in his own time. 
The passive and active resistance of the Kingdom of Evil 
at every stage of its advance is so great, and the human 
resources of the Kingdom of God so slender, that no ex- 
planation can satisfy a religious mind which does not see 
the power of God in its movements. The Kingdom of 
God, therefore, is miraculous all the way, and is the con- 
tinuous revelation of the power, the righteousness, and 
the love of God. The establishment of a community of 

has been made the subject of the most minute consideration; con- 
sequently redemption by Christ has been taken as the centre of all 
Qiristian knowledge and life, whereas the ethical conception of 
Christianity contained in the idea of the Kingdom of God has been 
slighted. ... It has been fatal for Protestantism that the Reformers 
did not cleanse the idea of the ethical Kingdom of God or Christ 
from its hierarchical corruption (i. e. the idea that the visible 
Church is identical with the Kingdom), but worked out the idea 
only in an academic and unpractical form." Kant first recognized 
the importance of the Kingdom of God for ethics. Schleiermacher 
first applied the teleological quality of Christianity to the definition 
of its nature, but he still treated now of personal redemption and 
now of the Kingdom of God, without adequately working out their 
connection. Ritschl has done more than any one else to put the 
idea to the front in German theology, but he does not get beyond 
a few great general ideas. He was born too early to get sociolog- 
ical ideas. 


righteousness in mankind is just as much a saving act 
of God as the salvation of an individual from his natural 
selfishness and moral inability. The Kingdom of God, 
therefore, is not merely ethical, but has a rightful place 
in theology. This doctrine is absolutely necessary to 
establish that organic union between religion and moral- 
ity, between theology and ethics, which is one of the char- 
acteristics of the Christian religion. When our moral 
actions are consciously related to the Kingdom of God 
they gain religious quality. Without this doctrine we 
shall have expositions of schemes of redemption and we 
shall have systems of ethics, but we shall not have a true 
exposition of Christianity. The first step to the reform 
of the Churches is the restoration of the doctrine of the 
Kingdom of God. 

2. The Kingdom of God contains the teleology of the 
Christian religion. It translates theology from the static 
to the dynamic. It sees, not doctrines or rites to be con- 
served and perpetuated, but resistance to be overcome 
and great ends to be achieved. Since the Kingdom of 
God is the supreme purpose of God, we shall understand 
the Kingdom so far as we understand God, and we shall 
understand God so far as we understand his Kingdom. 
As long as organized sin is in the world, the Kingdom of 
God is characterized by conflict with evil. But if there 
were no evil, or after evil has been overcome, the King- 
dom of God will still be the end to which God is lifting 
the race. It is realized not only by redemption, but also 
by the education of mankind and the revelation of his 
life within it. 

3. Since God is in it, the Kingdom of God is always 


both present and future. Like God it is in all tenses, 
eternal in the midst of time. It is the energy of God 
realizing itself in human life. Its future lies among 
the mysteries of God. It invites and justifies prophecy, 
but all prophecy is fallible ; it is valuable in so far as it 
grows out of action for the Kingdom and impels action. 
No theories about the future of the Kingdom of God 
are likely to be valuable or true which paralyze or post- 
pone redemptive action on our part. To those who post- 
pone, it is a theory and not a reality. It is for us to see 
the Kingdom of God as always coming, always pressing 
in on the present, always big with possibility, and always 
inviting immediate action. We walk by faith. Every 
human life is so placed that it can share with God in the 
creation of the Kingdom, or can resist and retard its 
progress. The Kingdom is for each of us the supreme 
task and the supreme gift of God. By accepting it as a 
task, we experience it as a gift. By labouring for it we 
enter into the joy and peace of the Kingdom as our divine 
fatherland and habitation. 

4. Even before Christ, men of God saw the Kingdom 
of God as the great end to which all divine leadings were 
pointing. Every idealistic interpretation of the world, 
religious or philosophical, needs some such conception. 
Within the Christian religion the idea of the Kingdom 
gets its distinctive interpretation from Christ, (a) Je- 
sus emancipated the idea of the Kingdom from previous 
nationalistic limitations and from the debasement of 
lower religious tendencies, and made it world-wide and 
spiritual, (b) He made the purpose of salvation essen- 
tial in it. (c) He imposed his own mind, his personality, 


his love and holy will on the idea of the Kingdom, (d) 
He not only foretold it but initiated it by his life and 
work. As humanity more and more develops a racial 
consciousness in modern life, ideaHstic interpretations of 
the destiny of humanity will become more influential and 
important. Unless theology has a solidaristic vision 
higher and fuller than any other, it can not maintain the 
spiritual leadership of mankind, but will be outdistanced. 
Its business is to infuse the distinctive qualities of Jesus 
Christ into its teachings about the Kingdom, and this will 
be a fresh competitive test of his continued headship of 

5. The Kingdom of God is humanity organized accord- 
ing to the will of God. Interpreting it through the con- 
sciousness of Jesus we may affirm these convictions about 
the ethical relations within the Kingdom: (a) Since 
Christ revealed the divine worth of life and personality, 
and since his salvation seeks the restoration and fulfil- 
ment of even the least, it follows that the Kingdom of 
God, at every stage of human development, tends toward 
a social order which will best guarantee to all personali- 
ties their freest and highest development. This involves 
the redemption of social life from the cramping influence 
of religious bigotry, from the repression of self-assertion 
in the relation of upper and lower classes, and from all 
forms of slavery in which human beings are treated as 
mere means to serve the ends of others, (b) Since love 
is the supreme law of Christ, the Kingdom of God im- 
plies a progressive reign of love in human affairs. We 
can see its advance wherever the free will of love super- 
sedes the use of force and legal coercion as a regulative of 


the social order. This involves tlie redemption of so- 
ciety from political autocracies and economic oligarchies ; 
the substitution of redemptive for vindictive penology; 
the abolition of constraint through hunger as part of the 
industrial system ; and the abolition of war as the supreme 
expression of hate and the completest cessation of free- 
dom, (c) The highest expression of love is the free 
surrender of what is truly our own, life, property, and 
rights. A much lower but perhaps more decisive ex- 
pression of love is the surrender of any opportunity to 
exploit men. No social group or organization can claim 
to be clearly within the Kingdom of God which drains 
others for its own ease, and resists the effort to abate 
this fundamental evil. This involves the redemption of 
society from private property in the natural resources of 
the earth, and from any condition in industry which 
makes monopoly profits possible, (d) The reign of love 
tends toward the progressive unity of mankind, but with 
the maintenance of individual liberty and the opportunity 
of nations to work out their own national peculiarities 
and ideals. 

6. Since the Kingdom is the supreme end of God, it 
must be the purpose for which the Church exists. The 
measure in which it fulfils this purpose is also the meas- 
ure of its spiritual authority and honour. The institu- 
tions of the Church, its activities, its worship, and its 
theology must in the long run be tested by its effectiveness 
in creating the Kingdom of God. For the Church to 
see itself apart from the Kingdom, and to find its aims 
in itself, is the same sin of selfish detachment as when 
an individual selfishly separates himself from the com- 


men good. The Church has the power to save in so far 
as the Kingdom of God is present in it. If the Church is 
not Hving for the Kingdom, its institutions are part of 
the " world." In that case it is not the power of redemp- 
tion but its object. It may even become an anti-Christian 
power. If any form of church organization which for- 
merly aided the Kingdom now impedes it, the reason for 
its existence is gone. 

7. Since the Kingdom is the supreme end, all problems 
of personal salvation must be reconsidered from the 
point of view of the Kingdom. It is not sufficient to set 
the two aims of Christianity side by side. There must 
be a synthesis, and theology must explain how the two 
react on each other. (See Chapter X of this book.) 
The entire redemptive work of Christ must also be recon- 
sidered under this orientation. Early Greek theology- 
saw salvation chiefly as the redemption from ignorance by 
the revelation of God and from earthliness by the im- 
partation of immortality. It interpreted the work of 
Christ accordingly, and laid stress on his incarnation and 
resurrection. Western theology saw salvation mainly 
as forgiveness of guilt and freedom from punishment. 
It interpreted the work of Christ accordingly, and laid 
stress on the death and atonement. If the Kingdom of 
God was the guiding idea and chief end of Jesus — as 
we now know it was — we may be sure that every step 
in His life, including His death, was related to that aim 
and its realization, and when the idea of the Kingdom of 
God takes its due place in theology, the work of Christ 
will have to be interpreted afresh. 

8. The Kingdom of God is not confined within the 


limits of the Church and its activities. It embraces the 
whole of human life. It is the Christian transfiguration 
of the social order. The Church is one social institution 
alongside of the family, the industrial organization of 
society, and the State. The Kingdom of God is in all 
these, and realizes itself through them all. During the 
Middle Ages all society was ruled and guided by the 
Church. Few of us would want modern life to return 
to such a condition. Functions which the Church used 
to perform, have now far outgrown its capacities. The 
Church is indispensable to the religious education of 
humanity and to the conservation of religion, but the 
greatest future awaits religion in the public life of hu- 



The social gospel has an inherent interest in history. 
Individualistic theology sees everywhere countless sin- 
ful individuals who must all go through the same process 
of repentance, faith, justification, and regeneration, and 
who in due time die and go to heaven or hell. The his- 
torical age in which a person lived, or the social class or 
race to which he belonged, matters little. This religious 
point of view is above time and history. On the other 
hand the social gospel tries to see the progress of the 
Kingdom of God in the flow of history; not only in the 
doings of the Church, but in the clash of economic 
forces and social classes, in the rise and fall of despotisms 
and forms of enslavement, in the rise of new value- 
judgments and fresh canons of moral taste and senti- 
ment, or the elevation or decline of moral standards. Its 
chief interest is the Kingdom of God; and the Kingdom 
of God is history seen in a religious and teleological way. 
Therefore the social gospel is always historically minded. 
Its spread goes hand in hand with the spread of the his- 
torical spirit and method. 

This dominant interest in the creation and progress of 
social redemption influences the approach to the theolog- 
ical problems of the person and work of Christ. We 



want to see the Christ who initiated the Kingdom of 
God. Theologians have always tried to make their 
christology match with their conception of salvation. 
If they believed salvation to consist chiefly in the knowl- 
edge of God, they emphasized the personality and the 
doctrine of Christ as the complete revelation of God. 
If they made salvation to consist chiefly in the mystic 
impartation of divine life and immortality, their christ- 
ology laid chief stress on the union of the divine and 
human in the incarnation and in the sacraments. If sal- 
vation consists above all in the expiation of guilt, the 
forgiveness of sins, the justification of the sinner, and the 
remission of his penalties, then we need a Christ who 
made'atonement for our sins, rendered satisfaction to 
God for our delinquencies, and offset our guilty defects 
by his infinite merit and divine virtue. Each concep- 
tion of salvation made a pragmatic selection and con- 
struction of the facts. Each was fragmentary, but with- 
out necessarily excluding other series of ideas. So now 
the social gospel, without excluding other theological con- 
victions, demands to understand that Christ who set in 
motion the historical forces of redemption which are 
to overthrow the Kingdom of Evil. 

This is surely not an illegitimate interest. It is a re- 
turn to the earliest messianic theology; whereas some 
of the other christological interests and ideas are alien 
importations, part of that wave of *' Hellenization " 
which nearly swamped the original gospel. 

Being historically minded and realistic in its interests,, 
the social gospel is less concerned in the metaphysical 
problems involved in the trinitarian and christological 


doctrines. The speculative problem of christological 
dogma was how the divine and human natures united 
in the one person of Christ; the problem of the social 
gospel is how the divine life of Christ can get control 
of human society. The social gospel is concerned about 
a progressive social incarnation of God. 

The social gospel is believed by trinitarians and uni- 
tarians alike, by Catholic Modernists and Kansas Pres- 
byterians of the most cerulean colour. It arouses a 
fresh and warm loyaltyTo' Christ wherever it goes, 
though not always a loyalty to the Church. All who be- 
lieve in it are at one in desiring the spiritual sovereignty 
of Christ in humanity. Their attitude to the problems 
of the creeds will usually be determined by other influ- 

Yet there are certain qualities in the social gospel 
which may create a feeling of apathy toward the specu- 
lative questions. It is modern and is out for realities. 
It is ethical and wants ethical results from theology. It 
is solidaristic and feels homesick in the atomistk desert 
of individualism. 

The social gospel joins with all modern thought in 
the feeling that the old theology does not give us a 
Christ who is truly personal. Just as the human race, 
when it appears in theology, is an amorphous metaphys- 
ical conception which could be more briefly designated 
by an algebraic symbol, in the same way the personality 
of Jesus is not allowed to be real under theological in- 
fluence. If it does stand out vital and resolute, it is in 
spite of theology and not because of it. Some of the 


greatest theologians, men who wrote epoch-making 
treatises about Christ, such as Athanasius, give no indi- 
cation that the personahty of Jesus was live and real 
to them. When those who have been trained under the 
old religious beliefs come under the influence of his- 
torical teaching, the realization that Jesus was actually 
a person, and not merely part of a " scheme of redemp- 
tion," often comes as a great and beneficent shock. He 
has been made part of a scheme of salvation, the second 
premise in a great syllogism. The social gospel wants 
to see a personality able to win hearts, dominate situa- 
tions, able to bind men in loyalty and make them think 
like himself, and to set revolutionary social forces in 

Every event and saying in the life of Christ has, of 
course, been scanned intensely and used over and over 
for edification or theological proof. But in the main 
the theological significance of the life of Christ has been 
comprised in the incarnation, the atonement, and the res- 
urrection. The life in general served mainly to con- 
nect and lead up to these great events, and to found 
the Church."^ The things in which Jesus himself was 
passionately interested and which he strove to accomplish, 
do not seem to count for much. The impartation of di- 
vine life and immortality to the race was accomplished 
when he was a babe. The atonement might actually 
have been frustrated if the life effort of Jesus had been 

1 The treatment of his " work " under the three heads of prophet, 
priest, and king, which is an hereditary scheme in theology, seems 
antique and far-fetched. Moreover, his kingly office mainly begins 
with his resurrection. His kingly work in historical life has been 
treated with neglect. 


successful, for if the Jews had accepted his spiritual 
leadership, they would not have killed him. 

The social gospel would interpret all the events of his 
life, including his death, by the dominant purpose which 
he consistently followed, the establishment of the King- 
dom of God. This is the only interpretation which 
would have appealed to himself. His life was what 
counted; his death was part of it. The historic current 
of salvation which went out from him is the prolonga- 
tion of that life into which he put his conscious energy. 

Theology has made the divinity of Christ a question 
of nature rather than character. His divinity was an 
inheritance or endowment which he brought with him 
and which was fixed for him in his pre-existent state. 
He was divine on account of what took place at one 
moment in the womb of one Jewish woman rather than 
on account of all that took place in the inner depths of 
his spirit when he communed with his Father and fought 
through the issues of his life. Theology has been on a 
false trail in seeking the key to his life in the difficult 
doctrine of the two natures. That doctrine has never 
been settled. The formula of Chalcedon was a compro- 
mise. Any attempt to think precisely about the ques- 
tion results in a caricature; safety lies in vagueness. We 
shall come closer to the secret of Jesus if we think less 
of the physical process of conception and more of the 
spiritual processes of desire, choice, affirmation, and self- 
surrender within his own will and personality. The mys- 
teries of the spiritual world take place within the will. 

To repeat: The social gospel is not primarily inter- 
ested in metaphysical questions; its christological inter- 


est is all for a real personality who could set a great 
historical process in motion ; it wants his work interpreted 
by the purposes which ruled and directed his active life ; 
it would have more interest in basing the divine quality 
of his personality on free and ethical acts of his will 
than in dwelling on the passive inheritance of a divine 

The fundamental first step in the salvation of man- 
kind was the achievement of the personality of Jesus. 
Within him the Kingdom of God got its first foothold 
in humanity. It was by virtue of his personality that 
he became the initiator of the Kingdom. 

His personality was an achievement, not an effort- 
less inheritance. His temptations and struggles were not 
stage-combats. At every point of his life he had to 
see his way through the tangle of moral questions which 
invited to errors and misjudgments ; his clarity of judg- 
ment was an achievement. Not only in the desert but 
all the way he had to re-affirm his unity with the will 
of God and make all aims subservient to the Kingdom of 
God. The inclination early set in to eliminate the ele- 
ment of temptation, of effort, of vigorous action and re- 
action, and to show him calm, majestic, omniscient, the 
effortless master of all forces. This was supposed to 
be the proper demonstration of divinity in human form ; 
in fact it was a demonstration of feeble imagination and 
of Gnostic tendencies in his interpreters. Possibly God 
might be revealed in a life wholly placid and complete; 
certainly the Kingdom of God could not be initiated by 
such a life, for the Kingdom of God means battle. In 


all other cases we judge the ethical worth of a man by 
the character he achieves by will and effort. If he has 
any unusual outfit of nature we deduct it in our esti- 
mate. How can we claim high ethical value for the 
personality and character of Jesus if no effort of will was 
necessary to achieve it? 

Jesus lived out his own life. Like every other Ego he 
existed for himself as well as for others. He was as- 
serting and defending his right to be himself when he 
stood up for others. The problems of human life were 
not simply official problems to him, but personal prob- 
lems. But unlike others, he did not fall into the sin of 
selfishness, because he succeeded in uniting the service 
of the common good with the affirmation of his self- 

The personality which he achieved was a new type in 
humanity. Having the power to master and assimilate 
others, it became the primal cell of a new social organ- 
ism. Even if there had been no sin from which man- 
kind had to be redeemed, the life of Jesus would have 
dated an epoch in the evolution of the race by the intro- 
duction of a new type of consequent new social stand- 
ards. He is the real revelation of God. Other concep- 
tions have to be outlived ; his has to be attained. 

In the words of one of the most personal and orig- 
inal idealistic philosophers : " The consciousness of the 
absolute unity of the human and the divine life is the 
profoundest insight possible to man. Before Jesus it did 
not exist. Since his time, we might say to this day, 
it has been almost lost again, at least in secular philos- 
ophy. Jesus evidently had this insight. How did he 


get it? There is nothing very wonderful in rediscov- 
ering the truth after another man has found the way; 
but how the first, separated by ages before and after by 
the sole possession of this insight, obtained it, this is 
matter for profound wonder. Therefore it is really 
true that Jesus of Nazareth, in a unique way, true of 
no other, is the only begotten and first born Son of 
God, and that all ages, if they are capable of understand- 
ing him at all, must recognize him as such. It is true 
enough that now any man can rediscover this doctrine 
in the writings of the apostles and appropriate it in his 
own convictions. It is also true, and we assert it, that 
the philosopher, — as far as he knows, — discovers the 
same truths independently of Christianity, and sees them 
with a clearness and breadth of vision which traditional 
Christianity can not match. Yet it remains for ever true 
that we, our entire age, and all our philosophical investi- 
gations are based on Christianity, and our thinking pro- 
ceeds from it; that this Christian faith has entered in 
the most manifold ways into our entire culture; and 
that we all would not be what we are, unless this power- 
ful principle had preceded us historically. It remains 
incontestably true that all those who since Jesus have 
arrived at union with God, have attained it only through 
him and by his mediation. Thus in every way it is con- 
firmed that to the end of time all wise men will bow 
before this Jesus of Nazareth, and the more of life they 
have themselves, the more humbly will they acknowledge 
the exceeding glory of this great personality." ^ 

1 Johann Gottlieb Fichte, " Die Anweisung zum seligen Leben," 
Lecture VI. 1806. The translation is mine. 


Jesus experienced God in a new way. The ethical 
monotheism which he inherited from the prophets was 
transformed within his spirit and through his experiences 
into something far loveHer and kinder. Jehovah, the 
keeper of covenants and judge of his people, was changed 
into the Father in heaven who forgives sins freely, wel- 
comes the prodigal, makes his sun to shine on the just 
and unjust,~and asks for nothing but love, trust, and co- 
operative obedience. This intuition of God was born 
in a life that neither hated nor feared, and so far as it 
is adopted in any single life or in the life of humanity, 
it banishes hate and fear. An overpowering conscious- 
ness of God is needed in order to offset and overcome 
the tyranny of the sensuous life and its temptations. 
This consciousness of God which we derive from Jesus is 
able to establish centres of spiritual strength and peace 
which help to break the free sweep of evil in social life. 
Jesus set love into the centre of the spiritual universe, and 
all life is illuminated from that centre. This is the high- 
est idealistic faith ever conceived, and the greatest addi- 
tion ever made to the spiritual possessions of mankind. 
With such a Father spiritual intimacy is possible. 
With a despotic God prayer is a series of court obeisances 
and a secret fencing for personal independence. But 
given such a God as Jesus knew, and the consciousness 
of him would steal in everywhere and envelop all life 
in peace. It made righteousness a joy and sin repulsive. 
Any one who has ever been under a clear and happy 
realization of God will remember how spontaneous good- 
ness becomes. 

So we have in Jesus a perfect religious personality, 


a Spiritual life completely filled by the realization of a 
God who is love. All his mind was set on God and one 
with him. Consequently it was also absorbed in the fun- 
damental purpose of God, the Kingdom of God. Like 
the idea of God, the conception of the Kingdom was both 
an inheritance and a creation of Jesus ; he received it and 
transformed it in accordance with his consciousness of 
God. Within his mind the punitive and imperialistic ele- 
ments were steeped out of it, and the elements of love 
and solidarity were dyed into it. The Reign of God 
came to mean the organized fellowship of humanity act- 
ing under the impulse of love. 

By virtue of this consciousness of God Jesus rose above 
three temptations which have beset other religious spir- 

The first temptation is mysticism. Those who have 
been initiated into the secret inner way of God, and have 
experienced the sweetness of losing self in the all-com- 
prehending and holy Life, are tempted to turn in high 
disdain from the small and material contacts and du- 
ties which bind the soul on the wheel that ever revolves 
and never gets anywhere, and to seek the tranquillity and 
forgetfulness of mystic absorption. This is one of the 
temptations of the noblest souls. 

Jesus was not a mystic in the narrower sense of the 
escape from the world. He is our great example of 
prayer and of intimate communion with God. But the 
Kingdom of God engaged his will and set his task in the 
midst of men. He drew his strength from God, but he 
put it forth in the world. The Kingdom of God put di- 


vine significance into all his minor duties and saved 
life from religious disdain. We all know the common 
statue of Buddha, with his hands relaxed and inactive 
in his lap, his eyes unseeing and visionary, his lips in 
the smile of mystic contentment. We can not see Jesus 

The second temptation is pessimism. Religion cre- 
ates a profound sense of the evil in life. Those whose 
ears are attuned to hear the deepest organ note of the 
universe, hear a groan of travail from the under deep. 
Consequently pessimism has been the sombre habitation 
of many noble religious minds from Buddha to Schopen- 
hauer. The dualism of the first century, both philo- 
sophical and religious, was an expression of pessimism. 
Christianity was sucked thigh-deep into this quicksand. 
Its earliest speculative theologians, the Gnostics, were so 
pessimistic that to them the creation of the world was a 
blunder or a crime, and the Creator-God of Judaism got 
no reverence from them for perpetrating this world. 

Jesus was not a pessimist. Since God was love, this 
world was to him fundamentally good. He realized not 
only evil but the Kingdom of Evil; but he launched 
the Kingdom of God against it, and staked his life on its 
triumph. His faith in God and in the Kingdom of God 
constituted him a religious optimist. Even when his life 
was overshadowed by opposition, seeming failure, and 
death, his prevailing temper was not melancholy, but 
youthful and triumphant. He had no use for the studied 
melancholy of periodical fasting. Why should his 
friends fast? They were having a wedding time. Why 
pour the new wine of gladness into the old sad bottles, 


and why sew a new patch on a garment that was dropping 
to pieces ? 

The third temptation of religious spirits is asceticism 
and other-worldHness. Both are related to pessimism. 
The monk repudiates the social life which tempts him, 
scours the stains of worldliness from his soul by spir- 
itual exercises, wears the earthly integument thin by 
hunger and castigation, and enjoys the other world by 
anticipation whenever angels visit him or he has a vision 
of divine glory. All Christians who yearn to escape 
from this vale of tears and whose life is really set on an- 
other world, are to that extent pessimistic. The asceti- 
cism and other-worldliness of ancient and mediaeval 
Christianity were results of its " Hellenization," as Har- 
nack calls it. It took a thousand years of history, great 
social and intellectual changes, and an unparalleled re- 
ligious revolution to set Christianity even partly free from 
these influences of its early Greek and Oriental environ- 

Jesus was neither ascetic nor other-worldly. He for- 
mulated the distinctive difference between himself and 
John the Baptist in the saying that John ate not and 
drank not, while he himself ate and drank, and quoted 
the critics who called him a glutton and wine-bibber. 
He believed in a life after death, but it was not the domi- 
nant element in his teaching, nor the constraining force 
in his religious life. There are sayings in the gospels 
which are ascetic, and more that are apocalyptic; but 
Jesus, I believe, was neither. In so far as these sayings 
were really his own, their ideas were part of the equip- 
ment furnished him by his age and religion; they were 


not the essential products of his life. His mind was 
not at all of the same family type as those who wrote 
and re-wrote the apocalyptic literature. He fasted when 
he was absorbed in thought; so did Socrates; so do 
others. He went without food, sleep, and home-life be- 
cause he was set on a big thing. This is the revolution- 
ary asceticism of the Kingdom of God, but that is wholly 
different from the individualistic and other-worldly as- 
ceticism of the Nitrian desert. 

My own conviction is that the professional theologians 
of Europe, who all belong by kinship and sympathy to 
the bourgeois classes and are constitutionally incapaci- 
tated for understanding any revolutionary ideas, past or 
present, have overemphasized the ascetic and eschatolog- 
ical elements in the teachings of Jesus. They have 
classed as ascetic or apocalyptic the radical sayings about 
property and non-resistance which seem to them unprac- 
tical or visionary. If the present chastisement of God 
purges our intellects of capitalistic and upper-class in- 
iquities, we shall no longer damn these sayings by calling 
them eschatological, but shall exhibit them as anticipa- 
tions of the fraternal ethics of democracy and prophecies 
of social common sense. 

Jesus communed with God ; he realized the evil in the 
world; and he held his life with a light grasp. Yet he 
escaped the noble temptations of religion contained in 
mysticism, pessimism, asceticism, and other-worldliness. 
Out of the same ingredients, communion with God, 
realization of evil, and religious intensity and self-con- 
trol, he built a higher synthesis. His attitude to life was 
the direct product of his twofold belief, in the Father 


who is love and the Kingdom of God which is righteous- 
ness. Mediaeval Christianity, which was mystic, ascetic, 
and other-worldly, was not built on his synthesis. On 
the other hand the social gospel can be. His affirmation 
of life is the ideal basis for the social gospel. No re- 
ligion involving the negation of life is really compatible 
with it. It remains to be seen whether anything like the 
social gospel can make headway in Buddhistic countries; 
and if it does, whether it will not transform the old 

His communion with God and his devotion to the King- 
dom of God set Jesus free and also bound him. They 
freed him from the conservatism of inherited religion 
and from the coercion of the social order; they bound 
him to a life of obedience and to the utter service of 
men. The harmony of these antinomies is one of the 
distinctive qualities of his personality. 

He was a loyal son of his nation, a believer in its 
traditions and its worth, and we know how deeply he 
was moved by his foresight of its disaster. His religious 
life was inseparable from that of his nation. There were 
no novel or alien elements in it, as with Paul or Philo, 
which might have laid the basis for departures. He 
never cut loose from the religion of his fathers, and 
never told his followers to leave the synagogue and found 
the Church. He was no come-outer. 

But he had a higher law and allegiance within him. 
In so far as the religious customs of Judaism conflicted 
with his consciousness of God or with the reign of love, 
he broke with them. He contravened the Sabbath regu- 


lations when they inflicted suffering or interfered with 
acts of mercy. He set aside the entire principle of 
clean and unclean food because it had no ethical truth 
in it. The Sermon on the Mount was a deliberate dec- 
laration that the old moral law was insufficient and that 
new ethical standards were needed for the new era. His 
invective against the scribes and Pharisees repudiated, 
not only the clerical " system " which was exploiting re- 
ligion, but the models, definitions, and casuistry of cur- 
rent theology. Aside from his action of cleansing *' the 
house of prayer " from the chatter of the market, he 
scarcely mentioned the temple and its sacrifices, except 
to rank them below love and reconciliation. Ceremonial 
acts were not the proper expression of his consciousness 
of God. He realized religion in acts expressing love and 
fellowship, or in breaking with the Kingdom of Evil. 
Under his teaching the burden of time, expense and rou- 
tine through which religious men sought to appease 
God's anger or court his favour, dropped away. If God 
was love, why these doings ? " The Gentiles think they 
shall be heard for their many-worded prayers ; be not like 
them; your Father knows." 

Such a change of attitude toward the ritual institu- 
tions of religion, when it has become common, has 
availed to purge the religion of whole nations of its non- 
ethical inheritances; it has reinforced the progressive 
elements of society by turning the energies of religion 
from the maintenance of conservative institutions to the 
support of movements for political emancipation and so- 
cial justice. Such a change in religion inaugurates new 
eras in history. 


Now, such changes, when they have happened, have 
been due in part to a renaissance of this attitude of 
esus. In the case of the Protestant Reformation it was 
mainly due to a revival of Paul's attitude of freedom over 
against the Law. But Paul's freedom was one of the 
treasures v/hich he derived from Christ. 

With Jesus this spiritual attitude toward the religious 
customs of his people was the consistent outworking of 
his consciousness of God and of his conception of the 
reign of God. In making his stand on each of the points 
which brought him into conflict, he was achieving his 
own personality. 

The God whom Jesus bore within him was not the 
God of one nation. The reign of God which he meant 
to establish was not a new imperialism with the chosen 
people on the top of the pile. The gospels show us Jesus 
in the act of crossing the racial boundary lines and out- 
growing nationalistic religion. He recognized the reli- 
gious qualities in a pagan; he foresaw that the King- 
dom of God would cut across the old lines of division; 
he held up the hyphenated and heretical Samaritan as 
a model of humane kindness. Every time a wider con- 
tact was offered him, he seized it with a sense of exulta- 
tion, like the discoverer of a new continent. That 
world-wide consciousness of humanity, which is coming 
to some in protest against the hideous disruption and 
hatred of the War, was won by Jesus at less cost under 
the tuition of God and the Kingdom ideal. 

Jesus lived in a world of high thought and set his face 
toward the greatest of all aims. But he talked peace- 


fully with simple people, and was impatient when his 
friends did not want him annoyed by children. He was 
valorous, fearless, an outdoor man, and an invincible 
fighter. But he was so tender to the sick and so com- 
radely with the poor that " Christlike " has remained 
one of the aristocratic adjectives in our language, and 
men like Saint Francis, who followed him and grew like 
him, have stood out as the beloved souls, the rare flowers 
of esoteric humanity. 

He was a proud spirit who lived out his own life and 
asserted himself against all the weight of authority, 
against his king, against the supreme court of his nation, 
against Moses, against professional theology and the law- 
yer caste, against the power of custom, against his home 
community, against his own mother. But he had a 
thirst for friendship, an unfailing insight into the subtler 
motives and longings of men and women, a thrilling re- 
sponsiveness to the emotions of masses of men, and an 
unexampled sense of the sacredness of personality. 

He bowed to law and order. He paid his taxes, and 
advised others to do it. He sent a leper to the proper 
officer to get his sanitary certificate. But he had no 
spiritual awe for the exponents of the present social or- 
der. He challenged its moral basis. He dropped into 
the silence of a passive resister when he faced a typical 
court, and he was felt then and ever since as a force 
against despotism. 

The personality of Jesus is a call to the emancipa- 
tion of our own personalities. He has multiplied free 
souls. Every such soul counts in the progress of man- 
kind. They are rare. They are most effective in the 


redemption of society when they are free from the acrid 
qualities of rebelHon. Those who have derived their 
spiritual freedom and their social spirit from Jesus are 
most likely to have the combination of freedom with 
love and gentleness. This ought to be the distinctive 
mark of Christ within the social movement. Is it true 
that Jesus has been experienced as a Liberator more fre- 
quently apart from theology than within it? If so, 

To think out any one of these convictions, or to 
achieve any one of these harmonies, so that all life can 
become simple, whole-hearted, and divinely intelligible 
through its truth, is a great achievement for a life-time. 
Luther was one of the most dynamic personalities in his- 
tory, one of the epoch-making religious minds. Yet it 
took him years of morbid struggle to emerge from the 
gloom of religious fear into Christian assurance, and to 
cut across the labyrinth of church methods by the short- 
cut of simple faith. And after achieving this discovery, 
he imposed his emancipating faith on others as a sov- 
ereign formula, and would not let others advance be- 
yond the point he had reached. With Jesus these great 
inward convictions were not academic theory, but life 
and action. They were the reality on which he staked 
all. They were so much his own that he acted on them 
as a matter of course, with a self-possession which did 
not have to weigh and consider, but struck ahead, and 
struck right. 

In the case of biological mutations the question is not 
only whether the new type is valuable, but also whether 


it will breed true and succeed in perpetuating itself 
against the competition of other types. Jesus not only 
achieved the kind of religious personality which we have 
tried to bring before our memory and imagination, but 
he succeeded in perpetuating his spirit. What was per- 
sonal with him became social within the group of the 
disciples. His life became a collective and assimilating 
force and a current of historic tradition. 

His disciples were human stuff, and all of them doubt- 
less were thin conductors for the powerful current they 
had to convey. His Jewish friends were full of older 
ideas, and most of them seem to have sagged back toward 
conservative Judaism. Luke's narrative about Peter and 
Stephen, and Paul's profound trouble of mind about the 
Judaizing brethren are evidence. As soon as the Church 
moved out into the Greek world, a process of assimilation 
began which left little of the real Jesus in sight. The 
historical research of the last forty years has written a 
new chapter about the sufferings of Jesus. Imagine him 
coming into a Gnostic conventicle in a. d. 150, or into 
the Church of Cyprian in a. d. 250, or into high mass 
at the Church of the Lateran in a. d. 1250, and trying to 
discover what it was all about. 

And yet he survived. He has come through to this 
day with his thought and his personality still vital, sui 
generis, and far ahead of our day. Whenever his spirit 
has been embodied again in a striking degree in some 
individual, people have gathered around that man, hun- 
gry for salvation. Any man in whom the Jesus-strain 
reappears clearly is felt to be a kind of superman. If 
Tolstoi, for instance, had never begun to follow Christ 


in his life, he would be simply one of a group of brilliant 
Russian novelists. Since he received something of the 
mind of Jesus into his mind, he became one of the pro- 
phetic figures of our age and no one can tell how much 
he contributed, through others, to enable Russia, newly 
free, to make the one sincere and penetrating utterance 
made on behalf of democracy and peace in the Spring 
and Summer of 191 7. In the same way those religious 
movements in which the distinctive ideas and spirit of 
Jesus have broken forth again, have been the fruitful 
and prophetic movements in religion. Their power of 
attack can best be measured by the ferocity with which 
the Kingdom of Evil has trampled on them. 

The Kingdom of God is not a concept nor an ideal 
merely, but an historical force. It is a vital and organ- 
izing energy now at work in humanity. Its capacity to 
save the social order depends on its pervasive presence 
within the social organism. Every institutional foot- 
hold gained gives a purchase for attacking the next van- 
tage-point. Where a really Christian type of religious 
life is created, the intellect and its education are set free, 
and this in turn aids religion to emancipate itself from su- 
perstition and dogmatism. Where religion and intellect 
combine, the foundation is laid for political democracy. 
Where the people have the outfit and the spirit of 
democracy, they can curb economic exploitation. Where 
predatory gain and the resultant inequality are lessened, 
fraternal feeling and understanding become easier and 
the sense of solidarity grows. Where men live in the 
consciousness of solidarity and in the actual practice of 


love with their fellow-men, they are not far from the 
Kingdom of God. The great thing in the salvation of 
humanity is that salvation is present. Life begets life. 

Yet it is a matter of unspeakable difficulty for the 
Kingdom of God to make headway against the inherent 
weakness of human nature and the social entrenchments 
of the Kingdom of Evil. " The risks of temporary dis- 
aster which great ideals run, appear to be directly propor- 
tioned to the value of the ideals. Great truths bear long 
sorrows." ^ The more we do justice to this fact, the 
more we shall realize that the initiation and perpetuation 
of the historical movement of redemption was the essen- 
tial thing. Jesus was the initiator. To show this more 
and more clearly is the service the social gospel asks of 
doctrinal and historical theology. By this avenue of ap- 
proach we shall appreciate the human dimensions of 
Jesus. The individualistic theology was the creation of 
men with little historical training and historical con- 
sciousness, and to that extent the problems they set were 
the product of uneducated minds. The full greatness of 
the problem of Jesus strikes us when we see him in his 
connection with human history. Our own consciousness 
of God's love and forgiveness, our inward freedom, our 
social feeling, the set of our will toward the achievement 
of the Kingdom of God, our fellowship with the '* two or 
three " in which we have a realization of the higher pres- 
ence, we owe to our connection with the historical force 
which Jesus initiated. Where did he himself get what 
he had ? At what fountain did he drink ? 

1 Royce, " Problem of Christianity," I, 54. 



My main purpose in this book has been to show that the 
social gospel is a vital part of the Christian conception of 
sin and salvation, and that any teaching on the sinful 
condition of the race and on its redemption from evil 
which fails to do justice to the social factors and pro- 
cesses in sin and redemption, must be incomplete, unreal, 
and misleading. Also, since the social gospel hence- 
forth is to be an important part of our Christian mes- 
sage, its chief convictions must be embodied in these doc- 
trines in some organic form. 

Now, the doctrines of sin and salvation are the start- 
ing-point and goal of Christian theology. Every es- 
sential change or enlargement in them is bound to affect 
related doctrines also. It will be the object of the re- 
maining chapters of the book to indicate how the social 
gospel would re-act on the doctrine of God, of the Holy 
Spirit and inspiration, of the sacraments, of eschatology, 
and of the atonement. 

The conception of God held by a social group is a so- 
cial product. Even if it originated in the mind of a 
solitary thinker or prophet, as soon as it becomes the 
property of a social group, it takes on the qualities of 
that group. If, for instance, a high and spiritual idea 



of God is brought to a people ignorant and accustomed 
to superstitious methods of winning the favour or help of 
higher beings, it will soon be coarsened and materialized. 
The changes in the Hebrew conception of God were the 
result of the historical experiences of the nation and 
its leaders. The Christian idea of God has also had its 
ups and downs in the long and varied history of Chris- 
tian civilization. 

A fine and high conception of God is a social achieve- 
ment and a social endowment. It becomes part of the 
spiritual inheritance common to all individuals in that 
religious group. If every individual had to work out his 
idea of God on the basis of his own experiences and in- 
tuitions only, it would be a groping quest, and most of us 
would see only the occasional flitting of a distant light. 
By the end of our life we might have arrived at the 
stage of voodooism or necromancy. Entering into a high 
conception of God, such as the Christian faith offers us, is 
like entering a public park or a public gallery of art and 
sharing the common wealth. When we learn from the 
gospels, for instance, that God is on the side of the poor, 
and that he proposes to view anything done or not done 
to them as having been done or not done to him, such 
a revelation of solidarity and humanity comes with a re- 
generating shock to our selfish minds. Any one studying 
life as it is on the basis of real estate and bank clearings, 
would come to the conclusion that God is on the side of 
the rich. It takes a revelation to see it the other way. 

Wherever we encounter such a strain of social feeling 
in our conceptions of God, it is almost sure to run straight 


back either to Jesus or the prophets. The Hebrew proph- 
ets were able to realize God in that way because they 
were part of a nation which had preserved the traditions 
of primitive fraternal democracy. The prophets empha- 
sized God's interest in righteousness and solidarity be- 
cause they were making a fight to save their people from 
the landlordism and oppression under which other peoples 
have wilted and degenerated. When, therefore, w^e to- 
day feel the moral thrill of Hebrew theism, we are the 
heirs and beneficiaries of one untamed nation of moun- 
tain-dwellers. When such a conception of God is trans- 
mitted to other nations or to later times, it is the expor- 
tation of the most precious commodity a nation can pro- 

On the other hand, if a conception of God originates 
among the exploiting classes in an age of despotism, it is 
almost certain to contain germs of positive sinfulness 
which will infect all to^whom it is transmitted. 

Christianity is an old religion. Its youth was lived in 
the midst of a matured and dying imperial despotism. At 
first it was an illegal organization, suppressed by the Em- 
pire, and in turn the Empire was described in our Apoca- 
lypse as " the Beast.'' This hostility was a saving ele- 
ment which made the Church somewhat immune to the 
despotic influences, as long as it lasted. But in time the 
Church came under the control and spiritual influence of 
the upper classes, and finally of the Roman State. We 
know that the effects of this social environment were 
wrought into the constitutional structure of the Church. 
The Roman Catholic Church is still the religious replica 
of the Roman imperial organization, Harnack thinks 


this is the characterization which comes closest to its real 
nature. Did this environment also influence the theo- 
logical and religious conceptions about God? 

Later the Western Church passed through the age of 
feudalism. Feudalism was a social order in which the 
military, judicial, and executive powers were under the 
control of the same class which controlled the one great 
source of wealth at that time, the agricultural land. 
What such a combination of private property power and 
governmental powers of coercion comes to was brought 
home to us by the revelations about the rubber trade 
in the Belgian Congo a few years ago. Of this feudal 
social order the Church was an integral and active part. 
The temper and attitude of the dominant part of the 
clergy was deeply affected by this social environment. 
Did it also shape the conception of God? Did it create 
habits of mind which came out in the religious appeals, 
the illustrations and arguments used, and the tacit pre- 
suppositions of all argument? 

Our imagination has only a short reach. In conceiv- 
ing a higher world we have to take the familiar properties 
and figures of our material world, and enlarge and re- 
fine them as best we can. As long as kings and gover- 
nors were the greatest human beings in the public eye, 
it was inevitable that their image should be superimposed 
on the idea of God. Court language and obeisances 
were used in worship and when men reasoned about God, 
they took their illustrations and analogies from those who 
were a close second to God. 

Athanasius, for instance, in order to explain how the 



incarnation could save the human race from death and 
give immortal life, says that when a great king takes resi- 
dence in one house in a city, the whole city enjoys great 
honour and is not in danger from any enemy or bandit 
invasion. In the same way the physical presence of the 
incarnate Logos dispelled the evil of death. This is 
one of the principal arguments in his mind. But in fact 
it is no argument at all except on monarchical assump- 

In his epoch-making book, " Cur Deus Homo," Anselm 
bases his discussion on the proposition that God's 
" honour " has been violated by human sin. Man is 
wholly subject to God, and bound to fulfil all his demands. 
If he falls short, God is under no obligation to show him 
favour, and must exact satisfaction for the violation of 
his honour. He can not simply forgive sin. It is not 
enough if the sinner henceforth performs his whole duty. 
" Satisfaction " must be rendered by some adequate work 
of merit over and above the legal requirements of God. 
This equivalent man is unable to render. Christ is able. 
On this basis Anselm builds his theory of the atonement. 
It has often been pointed out that Anselm derived his 
idea of " satisfaction " from the Teutonic practice of com- 
muting physical punishment into a financial payment.'^ I 
think Anselm, an Italian and a churchman, was also in- 
fluenced by the " satisfactions " in the penitential prac- 
tice of the Church. But beyond all these contemporary 
influences of law and custom was the pervasive impres- 

1 This was first established by my friend Professor Hermann 
Cremer in his monograph, " Die Wnrzeln des anselmischen Satis- 
factionsbegriffes." Studien und Kritiken, 1880. 


sion of autocratic power and monarchical self-assertion, 
which rates an offence against the members of the royal 
family or against the governing class far more highly 
than other crimes, and makes the king's " honour " a 
concern for which nations must go to war. 

God's right of arbitrary decision, which has been as- 
serted in many connections, runs back to the same auto- 
cratic sources. Duns Scotus and his followers even held 
that the death of Christ was necessary only because God 
declared it necessary. If he had been willing to accept 
the obedience of some good angel, that too would have 
sufficed. We are most familiar with the arbitrary power 
of God in the doctrine of election. The right of God to 
select some individuals for eternal life and leave others 
to eternal punishment, entirely apart from any question 
of personal merit or demerit, was always based on the 
ground of the " sovereignty " of God, that is, the divine 
autocracy. If a city rebelled, all lives were forfeited; if 
the King had only 50 councillors hung, or every tenth 
citizen sold into slavery, it was an act of royal clemency 
worthy of praise. By the fall all men were in a state 
of damnation; if God elected some to salvation and left 
the others as they were, it was divine grace ; nor vv^as he 
under obligation to explain his reasons in picking the 

Scholastic arguments reach few people; imaginative 
pictures of spiritual ideas are subtle and pervasive. God 
was imagined far above, in an upper part of the universe, 
remote from humanity but looking down on us, fully 
aware of all we do, interfering when necessary, but very 
distinct. In Greek theology this distinctness was due to 


philosophical influences. In popular theology the re- 
moteness of great men perhaps had more to do with shap- 
ing this idea than philosophy. 

The sense of fear which has pervaded religion has 
doubtless been, at least in part, a psychological result of 
the despotic attitude of parents, of school-masters, of 
priests, and of officials all the way from the town beadle 
to the king. To uncounted people God has not been the 
great Comforter but the great Terror. The main con- 
cern in religion was to escape from his hands. Luther 
longed that he " might at last have a gracious God " — 
einen gnddigen Gott; the word is the same which was 
applied to princes and nobles when they were good- 
natured. Luther sweated with fear when he walked 
alongside of the body of the Lord in a Corpus Christi 
procession. To what extent was this due to the fact that 
he was constantly beaten by his parents and by his school- 
masters, and taught to be afraid of everything? Men 
enriched the Church enormously with gifts of land as in- 
surance premiums that God would not do anything horri- 
ble to them. When farmers are afraid enough to part 
with land, it must be a deep fear. 

The mediaeval methods of earning religious merit and 
of securing intercession were the product of fear and a 
close duplicate of the conditions existing under economic 
and political despotism. God was a feudal lord, holding 
his tenants in a grip from which there was no escape, ex- 
acting what was due to him, and putting the delinquent 
in a hot prison which was even worse than the terrible 
holes underneath the duke's castle. By special self-de- 
nial the religious peon could win '' merit " to offset his 


delinquencies. The saints and the blessed Virgin had 
much merit. The Church had power to assign some of 
this to those who stood in with the Church. The inter- 
cession of the saints counted ; every one knew that it was 
a great thing for a poor man if a nobleman spoke for 
him to the judge ; it would be so in heaven too. Things 
go by favour ; the more aristocracy, the more pull. 

Thus the social relations in which men lived, affected 
their conceptions about God and his relations to men. 
Under tyrannous conditions the idea of God was neces- 
sarily tainted with the cruel hardness of society. This 
spiritual influence of despotism made even the face of 
Christ seem hard and stern. The outlook into the future 
life was like a glimpse into a chamber of torture. 

The conflict of the religion of Jesus with autocratic 
conceptions of God is therefore part of the struggle of 
humanity with autocratic economic and political condi- 
tions. This carries the social movement into theology. 
Theologians therewith have their share in redeeming hu- 
manity from the reign of tyranny and fear, and if we 
do not do our share emphatically and with a will, where 
do we belong, to the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom 
of Evil? The worst form of leaving the naked un- 
clothed, the hungry unfed, and the prisoners uncom- 
forted, is to leave men under a despotic conception of 
God and the universe; and what will the Son of Man do 
to us theologians when we gather at the Day of Doom ? 

Here we see one of the highest redemptive services of 
Jesus to the human race. When he took God by the 
hand and called him '' our Father," he democratized the 


conception of God. He disconnected the idea from the 
coercive and predatory State, and transferred it to the 
reahn of family life, the chief social embodiment of sol- 
idarity and love. He not only saved humanity ; he saved 
God. He gave God his first chance of being loved and 
of escaping from the worst misunderstandings conceiv- 
able. The value of Christ's idea of the Fatherhood of 
God is realized only by contrast to the despotic ideas 
which it opposed and was meant to displace. We have 
classified theology as Greek and Latin, as Catholic and 
Protestant. It is time to classify it as despotic and dem- 
ocratic. From a Christian point of view that is a more 
decisive distinction. 

Paul has preserved for us the deep impression of libera- 
tion and relief which the Christian idea of God made on 
him and his contemporaries : " For (when you became 
Christians) you did not receive the spirit of slavery to 
fill you with fear once more, but you received the spirit of 
sonship which leads us to cry, * Our Father.' " The 
Gnostics, some of whom were exceedingly able minds, 
attracted to Christianity by its spiritual contents, be- 
lieved that Christ had for the first time in cosmic history 
brought to mankind a revelation of the real God. All 
the other God-ideas had been counterfeits and carica- 
tures imposed on humanity by lower and evil spiritual 
beings to enslave them. This is a striking expression of 
the feeling that the God mirrored in the teaching and 
person of Christ was in a wholly different class from all 

Of course the Christian conception of God was not 
kept pure. The pall of darkness rising from despotic 


society constantly obscured and eclipsed it. The imagery 
of coercion and tyranny always suggested itself anew. 
The triumph of the Christian idea of God will never be 
complete as long as economic and political despotism pre- 

The value of the Reformation should be re-assessed 
from this point of view. Luther tore the idea of " merit '* 
out of theology. Christ alone had merit. By his blood 
he had paid the whole debt once for all. Man need not 
earn merit. He can not earn merit. It would be a sin 
for him to try. That ended the contract labour system 
in religion. God was reconciled. He had been angry but 
he was now kind and ready to forgive. The sinner need 
only believe and accept the great transaction made on his 
behalf. That ended the reign of fear for those who un- 
derstood. The saints and their intercession were dis- 
missed ; they never had any merit either ; the sinner could 
deal with God and Christ direct. Purgatory was gone; 
only hell proper remained. It was a religious Seisach- 
theia, like that in Athens under Solon's laws, a great un- 
loading, a revolution in the field of the spiritual life, and 
the condition for the coming of political and economic lib- 

But the restoration of the Christian conception of God 
was by no means complete. Despotic government was 
still in full swing when the Reformation theology was 
written. Luther and Calvin were not personally in sym- 
pathy with democracy. The age of absolutism and of 
Louis XIV was just ahead. The long era of witch-trials 


had just begun. The spell of fear was broken only for a 
few. The fundamental assumptions about God re- 
mained. The inherited forensic terminology of theology 
suggested the old lines of thought. As long as religion 
borrows its terms from the procedure of law-courts, the 
spirit of coercion and terror leaks in. Legal ideas are 
not congruous with the Christian consciousness of salva- 
tion. The idea of " justification " did not come to us 
from Jesus and it does not blend well with his way of 
thinking. For Paul and Luther " justification by faith " 
was an emancipating idea ; it stood for an immense sim- 
plification and sweetening of the process of salvation. 
They used the terminology of legalism to deny its spirit. 
To us, who are not under the consciousness of Jewish or 
Roman Catholic legality, " justification " does not convey 
the same sense of liberation, but the phrase is now a 
vehicle by which legal and often despotic ideas come back 
to plague us. 

The social gospel is God's predestined agent to con- 
tinue what the Reformation began. It arouses intelli- 
gent hatred of oppression and the reign of fear, and 
teaches us to prize liberty and to love love. Therefore 
those whose religious life has been influenced by the so- 
cial gospel are instinctively out of sympathy with auto- 
cratic conceptions of God. They sense the spiritual taint 
which goes out from such ideas. They know that these 
religious conceptions are used to make autocratic social 
conditions look tolerable, necessary, and desirable. Like 
Paul, the social gospel has not " received the spirit of 
bondage again unto fear." It is wholly in sympathy with 


the conception of the Father which Jesus revealed to us 
by his words, by his personality, and by his own relations 
to the Father. 

This reformatory and democratizing influence of the 
social gospel is not against religion but for it. The worst 
thing that could happen to God would be to remain an 
autocrat while the world is moving toward democracy. 
He would be dethroned with the rest. For one man who 
has forsaken religion through scientific doubt, ten have 
forsaken it in our time because it seemed the spiritual op- 
ponent of liberty and the working people. This feeling 
will deepen as democracy takes hold and becomes more 
than a theory of government. We have heard only the 
political overture of democracy, played by fifes ; the eco- 
nomic numbers of the program are yet to come, and they 
will be performed with trumpets and trombones. 

The Kingdom of God is the necessary background for 
the Christian idea of God. The social movement is one 
of the chief ways in which God is revealing that he lives 
and rules as a God that loves righteousness and hates in- 
iquity. A theological God who has no interest in the 
conquest of justice and fraternity is not a Christian. It 
is not enough for theology to eliminate this or that auto- 
cratic trait. Its God must join the social movement. 
The real God has been in it long ago. The development 
of a Christian social order would be the highest proof 
of God's saving power. The failure of the social move- 
ment would impugn his existence. 

The old conception that God dwells on high and is 
distinct from our human life was the natural basis for 


autocratic and arbitrary ideas about him. On the other 
hand the reHgious belief that he is immanent in human- 
ity is the natural basis for democratic ideas about him. 
When he was far above, he needed vice-gerents to rule 
for him, popes by divine institution and kings by divine 
right. If he lives and moves in the life of mankind, he 
can act directly on the masses of men. A God who 
strives within our striving, who kindles his flame in our 
intellect, sends the impact of his energy to make our will 
restless for righteousness, floods our sub-conscious mind 
with dreams and longings, and always urges the race on 
toward a higher combination of freedom and solidarity, 
— that would be a God with whom democratic and re- 
ligious men could hold converse as their chief fellow- 
worker, the source of their energies, the ground of their 

Platonic philosophy in the first century made God so 
transcendent that it had to devise the Logos-idea to bridge 
the abyss between the silent depths of God and this world, 
and to enable God to create and to reveal himself. The- 
ology shrank from imputing suffering to God. Patripas- 
sianism seemed a self-evident heresy. To-day men want 
to think of God as close to them, and spiritually kin to 
them, the Father of all spirits. Eminent theologians in- 
sist that God has always suffered with and for mankind 
and that the cross is a permanent law of God's nature: 
" The lamb has been slain from the beginning of the 
world." Through the conception of evolution and 
through the social movement we have come to see human 
life in its totality, and our consciousness of God is the 
spiritual counterpart of our social consciousness. Some, 


apparently, would be willing to think of God as less than 
omnipotent and omniscient if only he were working hard 
with us for that Kingdom which is the only true Democ- 

Two points still demand discussion. The first is the 
problem of suffering. 

The existence of innocent suffering impugns the justice 
and benevolence of God, both of which are essential in a 
Christian conception of God. 

The simplest solution is to deny the existence of unjust 
suffering; to trust that good and ill are allotted accord- 
ing to desert; and if the righteous Job suffers great dis- 
aster, to search for his secret sin. This explanation broke 
down before the facts. How about the man born blind ? 
What personal sin had merited his calamity ? 

Dualism took the other extreme. It acknowledged 
that the good suffer, and stressed the fact. But it ex- 
culpated the good God by making the evil God the author 
of this world, or at least its present lord. 

Christianity has combined several explanations of suf- 
fering. It grounds it in general on the prevalence of sin 
since the fall. It has ascribed a malignant power of 
afflicting the righteous to Satan and his servants. It has 
taken satisfaction when justice was vindicated in some 
striking case of goodness or wickedness. It has held out 
a hope of a public vindication of the righteous in the 
great judgment, and of an equalization of their lot by 
their bliss in heaven and the suffering of the wicked. 
(This element, however, was weakened in Protestantism 
by the disappearance of purgatory and the tacit assump- 


tion that all who are saved at all will enjoy an equal bliss. 
Purgatory was a great balancer and equalizer.) Finally, 
Christianity has taught that God allots suffering with wise ♦ 
and loving intent, tempering it according to our strength, 
relieving it in response to our prayer, and using it to 
chasten our pride, to win us from earthliness to himself, 
and to prepare us for heaven. This interpretation does 
not assert the justice of every suffering, taken by itself, 
but does maintain its loving intention. 

All these are powerful and comforting considerations. 
But they are shaken by the bulk of the unjust suffering in 
sight of the modern mind. These Christian ideas are 
largely true as long as we look at a normal village com- 
munity and its individuals and families. But they are 
jarred by mass disasters. The optimism of the age of 
rationalism was shaken by the Lisbon earthquake in I755» 
when '^0,000 people were killed together, just and unjust. 
The War has deeply affected the religious assurance of 
our own time, and will lessen it still more when the ex- 
citement is over and the aftermath of innocent suffering 
becomes clear. But that impression of undeserved mass 
misery which the war has brought home to the thought- 
less, has long been weighing on all who understood the 
social conditions of our civilization. The sufferings of 
a single righteous man could deeply move the psalmists 
or the poet of Job. To-day entire social classes sit in the 
ashes and challenge the justice of the God who has af- 
flicted them by fathering the present social system. The 
moral and religious problem of suffering has entered on 
a new stage with the awakening of the social conscious- 
ness and the spread of social knowledge. 


If God stands for the present social order, how can we 
defend him? We can stand the pain of travail, of physi- 
cal dissolution, of earthquakes and accidents. These are i 
the price we pay for the use of a fine planet with lovely 
appurtenances and for a wonderful body. We can also 
accept with reasonable resignation the mental anguish of 
unrequited love, of foiled ambition, or of the emptiness 
of life. These are the risks we run as possessors of a 
highly organized personality amid a world of men. But 
we can not stand for poor and laborious people being de- 
prived of physical stature, youth, education, human equal- 
ity, and justice, in order to enable others to live luxurious 
lives. It revolts us to see these conditions perpetuated 
by law and organized force, and palliated or justified by 
the makers of public opinion. None of the keys offered 
by individualistic Christianity fit this padlock. 

The social gospel supplies an explanation of this class 
of human suffering. Society is so integral that when one 
man sins, other men suffer, and when one social class sins, 
the other classes are involved in the suffering which fol- 
lows on that sin. The more powerful an individual is, 
the more will he involve others; the more powerful a 
class is, the more will it be able to unload its own just 
suffering on the weaker classes. These sufferings are | 
not '' vicarious " ; they are solidaristic. 

Our solidarity is a beneficent part of human life. It is 
the basis for our greatest good. If our community life 
is righteous and fraternal, we are enriched and enlarged 
by being bound up with it. But, by the same law, if our 
community is organized in a way that permits, encour- 
ages, or defends predatory practices, then the larger part 


of its members are through solidarity caged to be eaten 
by the rest, and to suffer what is both unjust and useless. 

It follows that ethically it is of the highest importance 
to prevent our beneficent solidarity from being twisted 
into a means of torture. 

Physical pain serves a beneficent purpose by warning us 
of the existence of abnormal conditions. It fulfils its 
purpose when it compels the individual to search out the 
cause of pain and to keep his body in health. If he 
takes " dope " to quiet the consciousness of pain without 
healing the causes, the beneficent purpose of pain is frus- 

Social suffering serves social healing. If the sense of 
:ommon humanity is strong enough to set the entire social 
body in motion on behalf of those who suffer without 
just cause, then their troubles are eased and the whole 
oody is preserved just and fraternal. If the predatory 
forces are strong enough to suppress the reactions 
against injustice and inhumanity, the suffering goes on 
and the whole community is kept in suicidal evil. To 
interpret the sufferings imposed by social injustice in in- 
dividualistic terms as the divine chastening and sanctifi- 
cation of all the individuals concerned, is not only false 
but profoundly mischievous. It is the equivalent of 
*' dope," for it silences the warning which the suffering 
of an innocent group ought to convey to all society with- 
out abolishing the causes. It frustrates the only chance 
of redemptive usefulness which the sufferers had. 

All this applies to our conception of God. The idea 
of solidarity, when once understood, acts as a theodicy. 
None of us would want a world without organic com- 


munity of life, any more than we would want a world 
without gravitation. The fact that a careless boy falls 
down stairs does not condemn gravitation, nor does the 
existence of evil community life condemn God who con- 
stituted us social beings. The innocent suffering of great 
groups through social solidarity simply brings home to 
us that the tolerance of social injustice is an intolerable 
evil. The great sin of men is to resist the reformation 
of predatory society. We do not want God to be charged 
with that attitude. A conception of God which describes 
him as sanctioning the present social order and utilizing 
it in order to sanctify its victims through their suffering, 
without striving for its overthrow, is repugnant to our 
moral sense. Both the Old Testament and the New Tes- 
tament characterizations of God's righteousness assure 
us that he hates with steadfast hatred just such practices 
as modern communities tolerate and promote. If we can 
trust the Bible, God is against capitalism, its methods, 
spirit, and results. The bourgeois theologians have mis- 
represented our revolutionary God. God is for the 
Kingdom of God, and his Kingdom does not mean in- 
justice and the perpetuation of innocent suffering. The 
best theodicy for modern needs is to make this very clear. 

Finally, the social gospel emphasizes the fact that God 
is the bond of racial unity. 

Speaking historically, it is one of the most universal 
and important characteristics of religion that it consti- 
tutes the spiritual bond of social groups. A national god 
was always the exponent of national solidarity. A com- 


men religion created common sympathies. Full moral 
obligation stopped at the religious boundary line. The 
unusual thing about the Good Samaritan was that he dis- 
regarded the religious cleavage and followed the call of 
humanity pure and simple. 

The mingling of populations and religions in modern 
life makes the influence of religion less noticeable, but it 
still works as a bond of sympathy. It is easiest to trace 
it where the religious cleavage coincides with the racial 
or political cleavages. The French Catholics in Quebec 
and the English Protestants in Ontario; the Irish and 
the Ulstermen; the Catholic Belgians and the Protestant 
Dutch; the Latin nations of America and the United 
States; — the mention of the names brings up the prob- 
lem. The Balkans are a nest of antagonisms partly be- 
cause of religious differences. It has been fortunate for 
the American negro that the antagonism of race and so- 
cial standing has not been intensified in his case by any 
difference of religion.^ 

The spread of a monotheistic faith and the recognition 
of a single God of all mankind is a condition of an ethical 
union of mankind in the future. This is one of the long- 
range social effects of Christian missions. The effects of 
Christianity will go far beyond its immediate converts. 
Every competing religion will be compelled to emphasize 
its monotheistic elements and to allow its polytheistic in- 
gredients to drop to a secondary stage. 

1 1 have seen Southern pamphlets undertaking to prove that the 
negroes are not descended from Adam, but have evolved from 
African jungle beasts. The very orthodox authors were willing 
to accept the heretical philosophy of evolution for the black people, 


But it is essential to our spiritual honesty that no im- 
perialism shall masquerade under the cover of our re- 
ligion. Those who adopt the white man's religion come 
under the white man's influence. Christianity is the re- 
ligion of the dominant race. The native religions are a 
spiritual bulwark of defence, independence, and loyalty. 
If we invite men to come under the same spiritual roof 
of monotheism with us and to abandon their ancient shel- 
ters, let us make sure that this will not be exploited as 
a trick of subjugation by the Empires. As long as there 
are great colonizing imperialisms in the world, the propa- 
ganda of Christianity has a political significance. 

God is the common basis of all our life. Our human 
personalities may seem distinct, but their roots run down 
into the eternal life of God. In a large way both philos- 
ophy and science are tending toward a recognition of the 
truth which religion has felt and practised. The all- 
* pervading life of God is the ground of the spiritual one- 
ness of the race and of our hope for its closer fellow- 
ship in the future. 

The consciousness of solidarity, therefore, is of the 
essence of religion. But the circumference and spacious- 
ness of the fellowship within it differ widely. Every dis- 
covery of a larger fellowship by the individual brings a 
glow of religious satisfaction. The origin of the Chris- 
tian religion was bound up with a great transition from 
a nationalistic to an international religious consciousness. 
Paul was the hero of that conquest. The Christian God 

though of course they claimed biblical creation for the white. The 
purpose of this reHgious manoeuvre is to cut the bond of human 
obligation and solidarity established by religion, and put the negroes 
outside the protection of the moral law. 


has been a breaker of barriers from the first. All who 
have a distinctively Christian experience of God are com- 
mitted to the expansion of human fellowship and to the 
overthrow of barriers. To emphasize this and bring it 
home to the Christian consciousness is part of the mission 
of the social gospel, and it looks to theology for the in- 
tellectual formulation of what it needs. 

We have discussed three points in this chapter: how 
the conception of God can be cleansed from the historic 
accretions of despotism and be democratized ; how it can 
be saved from the indictment contained in the unjust suf- 
fering of great social groups ; and how we can realize God 
as the ground of social unity. Freedom, justice, solidar- 
ity are among the aims of the social gospel. It needs a 
theology which will clearly express these in its conception 
of God. 



The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of the most re- 
ligious of all Christian doctrines. It is not primarily a 
product of reflection, but of the great religious emotions 
and experiences. Perhaps for that very reason it has 
been relatively a neglected section of doctrinal theology. 
It deals with the most intimate and mystic experiences of 
the soul, and does not seem to belong to the field es- 
pecially cultivated by the social gospel. 

But in fact the social nature of religion is clearly de- 
monstrated in the work of the Holy Spirit. The prophets 
of the Old Testament were not lonely torches set aflame 
by the spirit of God; they were more like a string of 
electric lights along a road-side, which, though far apart, 
are all connected and caused by the same current. They 
transmitted not only their ideas but their spiritual recep- 
tivity and inspiration to one another. The great men 
of whom we think as solitary miracles of religious power 
were surrounded and upborne in their day by religious 
groups which have now melted back into oblivion. Their 
prophetic consciousness was awakened and challenged by 
historic events affecting the social group to which they 
belonged. '' The burden of the Lord " was not for them- 
selves but for their community. They knew that their 



revelation was to be a message. Their religious experi- 
ences were moments of intense social consciousness. 

The Christian Church began its history as a commun- 
ity of inspiration. The new thing in the story of Pente- 
cost is not only the number of those who received the 
tongue of fire but the fact that the Holy Spirit had be- 
come the common property of a group. What had 
seemed to some extent the privilege of aristocratic souls 
was now democratized. The spirit was poured on all 
flesh; the young saw visions, the old dreamed dreams; 
even on the slave class the spirit was poured. The char- 
ismatic life of the primitive Church was highly impor- 
tant for its coherence and loyalty in the crucial days of its 
beginning. It was a chief feeder of its strong affections, 
its power of testimony, and its sacrificial spirit. Re- 
ligion has been defined as " the life of God in the soul of 
man." In Christianity it became also the life of God in 
the fellowship of man. The mystic experience was 

The doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, as we all 
know, has passed through profound changes in recent 
years. The change has all been away from religious in- 
dividualism and toward a social comprehension of the 
religious facts. 

The process of inspiration was formerly conceived as a 
transaction between God and the individual. The higher 
the doctrine of inspiration, the more solitary was the in- 
spired individual. It would have defeated the purpose of 
the doctrine to admit the presence of outside influences. 
Even the intellect and personality of the recipient were 


sometimes represented as passive and quiescent. Philo, 
whose ideas the early Church followed, said : " A 
prophet gives forth nothing at all of his own, but acts 
as interpreter at the prompting of another in all his utter- 
ances, and as long as he is under inspiration he is in ig- 
norance, his reason departing from its place, and yielding 
up the citadel of the soul, when the divine Spirit enters 
into it and strikes at the mechanism of the voice." In 
extreme orthodoxy it was a liberal concession to grant 
that the divine power utilized and respected the literary 
style and individual outlook of the writer. 

The modern conception of inspiration not only recog- 
nizes the free operation and the contributions of the dis- 
tinctive psychical equipment of the inspired person, but 
seeks in every way to get beyond the individual to the 
social group which produced him, to the spiritual prede- 
cessors who inspired him, and to the audience whith 
moved him because he hoped to move it. We might 
characterize the progress of the historical study of re- 
ligion in the last fifty years as a progressive effort to in- 
terpret religious individuals by their social contacts. The 
great work of biblical criticism has been to place every 
biblical book in its exact historical environment as a pre- 
liminary to understanding its religious message. The 
*' religions geschichtliche Methode" takes up the work 
where the critical method drops it, and reaches out still 
further, beyond the ideas and purposes of the literary per- 
son to the religious drifts and desires and beliefs of his 
age, to which he more or less consciously reacted. 

Every one who has shared in the results of this work 
will appreciate how helpful and fruitful this process at its 


best has been. It has opened up the inspiration of the 
past and released social values which had been completely 
locked away under the individualistic method of inter- 
pretation. The historical method has already done what 
the social gospel might wish it to do. Here we have a 
completed laboratory experiment proving the value and 
efficiency of a social understanding of religion. The only 
question is whether we can wan just as strong a sense of 
the presence of God from this complicated social process 
of inspiration, as when God was believed to have dic- 
tated the books by a psychological miracle. It can be 
done, but the interpreter needs personal acquaintance 
with inspiration to do it. 

In another direction, however, we have not yet over- 
come the narrowing influence of the old, mechanical views 
of inspiration. 

Those who have had first-hand experience of inspira- 
tion either in their own souls or in the life of others, have 
always combined reverence for the authority of the word 
of the Lord and a realization of the human frailty and 
liability to error in the prophet. Paul and his churches 
had a rich experience of inspiration. Writing to the 
Thessalonians he asserts the right of prophesying, but 
takes the duty of critical scrutiny by the hearers as a 
matter of course: "Quench not the spirit (in your- 
selves) ; despise not prophesying (in others) ; scrutinize 
all utterances; appropriate what is good." Inspiration 
did not involve infallibility when men knew it by ex- 

When the inspirationalism of the primitive Church died 


out, the understanding of its nature grew artificial, just 
as the understanding of Old Testament inspiration had 
become centuries earlier. It was not to the interest of 
church leaders to emphasize that the laity had once pos- 
sessed the gift of inspiration and the right of utterance. 
Consequently the realization of the charismatic life of the 
primitive Church was allowed to fade from the memory 
of Christians. The apostles alone stood out in the his- 
torical perspective as the possessors of inspiration. 
Their human frailties and fallibilities were forgotten or 
suppressed; they were conventionalized and fitted with 
haloes. Their utterances were infallible. Inspiration 
and infallibility were almost convertible terms. Being so 
high a gift, inspiration was strictly circumscribed, and 
was supposed to have ceased when the canon of the New 
Testament was completed. This, on the whole, has re- 
mained the popular orthodox view down to recent times. 
Now, so high a conception of inspiration discourages 
the stirring of the prophetic spirit in living men. A man 
might well claim that God had spoken to his soul and laid 
a message upon him. But who would want to claim that 
he is infallible? Psychical experiences are evoked by ex- 
pectancy. If men do not expect to be regenerated, few 
will have the experience. If they do not expect to be 
inspired, few will make their way single-handed to such 
an experience. The Church has reversed all the maxims 
of Paul except the last. It has quenched the spirit; it 
has discountenanced prophesying; it has forbidden intel- 
lectual scrutiny of inspiration so far as the biblical books 
were concerned. The only thing it encouraged was to 
cleave to that which is good. 


The old view of inspiration is supposed to be more 
deeply religious than the new. It did involve a more 
reverent and passive attitude of mind. But it robbed us 
of part of our consciousness of God. A religious man 
knows that he has no merit of his own, and that all his 
righteousness was wrought in him by God. To suppose 
that he can set his owiiwrll on God and work out his own 
salvation is sub-christian. We ought to have the same 
consciousness of God's influence on our intellectual com- 
prehension of Christian truth. To suppose that we can 
work out a living knowledge of the truth from a sacred 
book without the enlightening energy of the spirit of God 
is sub-christian and rationalistic. On the other hand, to 
be conscious of the divine light, to listen to the inner voice, 
to read the inspired words of the Bible with an answering 
glow of fire, is part of the consciousness of God to which 
we are entitled. There are many degrees of clarity and 
power in this living inspiration, and heavy admixtures of 
human error, passion, and false sentiment, but the same 
is true of the experiences of regeneration and sanctifica- 
tion. It is the business of the Church to encourage, tem- 
per, and purify the intellectual, as well as the emotional 
and volitional experiences of its members. 

At this point the social gospel coincides with the most 
energetic religious consciousness. Traditional theology 
has felt the need of inspired prophets and apostles chiefly 
in order to furnish the system of doctrine with a firm 
footing of inerrancy and infallibility. The doctrine of 
inspiration is not treated as part of the glorious results of 
redemption, and as the Christian salvation of the human 


intellect, but as part of the prolegomena of theology. 
The social gospel, on the other hamTTf eels the need of 
present inspiration and of living prophetic spirits in order 
to lead humanity toward the Kingdom of God. 
Wherever the Church is set in the centre and her aim is to 
keep the body of doctrine intact as delivered to it, inspira- 
tion will be located at the beginning of the line of tradi- 
tion, and at most the power of infallible interpretation 
will be claimed for popes and church councils. Wherever 
the Kingdom of God is set to the front, inspiration will 
spontaneously spring into life at the points where the 
conflict is hot and active in the present. A theology 
adapted to the social gospel, therefore, will recognize in- 
spiration as an indispensable force of our religion and an 
essential equipment of redemption. The social order can 
not be saved without regenerate men; neither can it be 
saved without inspired men. 

The value of the regenerate individual for the advance- 
ment of the Kingdom of God consists largely in his 
prophetic quality. If the Holy Spirit works on his soul 
so that he has a vision of the Kingdom of God and its 
higher laws, then to some extent he will be living ahead 
of his age. In the qualities of his personality and in his 
judgments of men and events he will be a witness to the 
divine order of society, and will challenge the right of 
the world as it now is. If this prophetic insight is not 
dulled by ignorance and made erratic by eccentricities of 
character, but is guided by education and balance of char- 
acter, its social force is very great. 

Individualistic religion has bred saints, missionaries, 
pastors, and scholars, but few prophets. Some of its so- 


called prophets have been expounders of the prophecy of 
others. Religions of authority have no real use for 
prophets except to furnish a supernatural basis for doc- 
trine. Hence prophecy used to be put on a level with 
miracles as " evidences of the Christian religion." 
Where the main interest is to keep doctrine undisturbed, 
living prophecy seemg a dangerous and unsettling force. 

Genuine prophecy springs up where fervent religious 
experience combines with a democratic spirit, strong so- 
cial feeling, and free utterance. Some sense of antagon- 
ism between the will of God and the present order of 
things is necessary to ignite the spirit of the prophet. 

This was the combination which produced the Hebrew 
prophets. We have the same combination in those mani- 
fold radical bodies which preceded and accompanied the 
Reformation. They all tended toward the same type, 
the type of primitive Christianity. Strong fraternal feel- 
ing, simplicity and democracy of organization, more or 
less communistic ideas about property, an attitude of 
passive obedience or conscientious objection toward the 
coercive and militaristic governments of the time, oppo- 
sition to the selfish and oppressive Church, a genuine faith 
in the practicability of the ethics of Jesus, and, as the 
secret power in it all, belief in an Inner experience of re- 
generation and an inner light which interprets the outer 
word of God. These radical bodies did not produce as 
many great individuals as we might have expected be- 
cause their intellectuals and leaders were always killed 
off or silenced. But their communities were prophetic. 
They have been the forerunners of the modern world. 
They stood against war, against capital punishment, 



against slavery, and against coercion in matters of re- 
ligion before others thought of it. It was largely due 
to their influence that the Puritan Revolution had its 
prophetic elements of leadership. The Free Churches 
throughout the world, consciously or unconsciously, 
clearly or dimly, have passed beyond the official types of 
orthodox Protestantism and have taken on some of the 
characteristics of the early radicals. Great church 
bodies now stand as a matter of course on those princi- 
ples of freedom and toleration which only the boldest once 
dared to assert. The power of leadership is with those 
organizations and movements which have some prophetic 
qualities and trust to the inner light. 

To-day it is the social gospel which has the demo- 
cratic outlook and the sense of solidarity. If it also has 
spiritual fervor, it will have prophetic power. 

The social gospel is not a doctrine turned backward 
to the sources of authority, but a faith turned forward 
to its task. It sees before it the Kingdom of Evil to be 
overcome, and the Kingdom of God to be established, 
and it cries aloud for an inspired word of God to give 
faith and power and guidance. If theology is to answer 
to the needs of the social gospel, it ought to assign to 
prophecy a definite place among the permanent forces of 
redemption. In recognizing the need of inspiration and 
prophecy the social gospel is more religious than the or- 
thodox type, and more positive than that liberal type of 
theology which Is chiefly interested in historical criticism.^ 

II shall return to this subject once more at the end of the last 



The sacraments have occupied a large place in the wor- 
ship and life of the Church, and a correspondingly wide 
room in theology. The Catholic Church is the institution 
of sacramental salvation. The Reformation was in large 
part a movement for cleansing the sacramental practices 
and doctrines. The disastrous split between the Luth- 
eran and Zwinglian churches was due to differences about 
the significance of one of the sacraments. Large his- 
torical denominational bodies have formed about the ef- 
fort to restore the genuine practice and doctrine of bap- 
tism. Evidently the conception of the sacraments has 
long been an active volcanic region in theology. The old 
controversial zeal has been followed by relative apathy. 
Except under " High Church " influences the importance 
of the sacraments in practical church life seems to be les- 
sening and the issues are being forgotten. 

Can the religious spirit of the social gospel give any 
fresh spiritual meaning to the ancient ordinances, or add 
anything to the theological interpretation of them? I 
confess I doubt it. The two fields of interest lie far apart 
at present. But as a challenge to thought perhaps the 
following considerations may have some use. 

When the act of baptism was Initiated by John the Bap- 
tist and continued for a time by Jesus, it was not a ritual 



act of individual salvation, but an act of dedication to a 
religious and social movement. Baptism at the Jordan 
was not received to save the individual by himself, or in 
a future life; it was received in view of the impending 
Messianic salvation and as an act of allegiance to a new 
order of things. The baptism of John can not be separ- 
ated from his preaching ; the former received its meaning 
and content from the latter. His preaching called men 
to repent of their old way of living, to quit grafting, and 
to begin to live in fraternal helpfulness. Baptism was 
the dramatic expression of an inward consent and alle- 
giance to the higher standards of life which were to pre- 
vail in the Messianic community. It was the symbol of a 
revolutionary movement. 

There is no indication that Jesus or his disciples prac- 
tised baptism during the Galilean period of his work. 
When the practice was resumed by the primitive Church, 
it was once more an act of obedience and faith in view 
of the impending Messianic Kingdom at the return of the 
Lord. The ritual act now got its ethical interpretation 
from the remembered sayings of the Master and from the 
fraternal life of the Christian group. 

Baptism was profoundly affected by the great change 
which came over Christianity when it left its Jewish en- 
vironment and was assimilated by Greek religious and 
social life. It was gradually filled with new meanings. 
It was an act cancelling the guilt of all past sins ; an act of 
regeneration; an act of exorcization, cleansing from the 
defilement of pagan worship and life. But it was less and 
less "a dedication to the coming Kingdom of God. It 
still had a great social significance, for it was the act by 


which the individual stepped out of pagan society and into 
the fellowship of the Christian group, with its love, its 
dangers, and its limitations. 

This change in the meaning and content of baptism was 
confirmed by the spread of infant baptism since the mid- 
dle of the second century. The immediate cause for the 
baptism of young children was the belief that baptism 
is necessary for salvation, combined with the ever urgent 
facts of infant mortality. Origen, and still more Au- 
gustine, tied up the church practice with the doctrine of 
original sin. Baptism had been the symbol of a revolu- 
tionary hope, an ethical act which determined the will and 
life of the person receiving it. It was now a ceremony 
performed on a babe to save it from the guilt and power 
of original sin and to assure its salvation in heaven in 
case of its death. 

Here again new social elements sprang up. The prac- 
tical necessities of the case created a social backing for 
the young candidate. Since its own responses were still 
inarticulate, grown-up sponsors recited the creed and 
other formulas for him, and this service established a 
social relationship which often lasted for life. Since the 
faith of the child was still undeveloped, theology taught 
that the sponsors and the Church were to supply it. 

In modern time much finer ideas have been attached to 
infant baptism. The act is based on the organic unity of 
the family ; the parents thereby dedicate the child to God 
and pledge themselves to give it Christian nurture; the 
child is by baptism incorporated into the organism of the 
Church and made to share in its saving power ; the act ex- 


presses the consciousness of the Church that the child is 
a child of God and has a right to claim the divine pater- 
nity. These are much more Christian ideas than those 
which first called infant baptism into existence. 

Scarcely any Christian institution has experienced such 
changes and deteriorations as baptism, but of them all 
the loss of outlook toward the Kingdom of God was one 
of the most regrettable. Could the social gospel — at 
least in some instances — fill baptism with its original 
meaning? We could imagine a minister and a group of 
candidates who unite in feeHng the evil of the present 
world-order and the promise and claims of the impend- 
ing Christian world-order, together using baptism to ex- 
press their solemn dedication to the tasks of the Kingdom 
of God, and accepting their rights as children of God 
within that Kingdom. In those churches in which bap- 
tism is administered in infancy, confirmation would of- 
fer the next best opportunity to impress and express such 
convictions. In the catechumenate the ancient Church 
put the candidate through lotig processes of exorcization 
to expel the demon powers which had infected him in his 
pagan life. Those churches which practise confirmation 
have shifted the instruction of the catechumenate to pre- 
cede confirmation; those churches which practise adult 
baptism are much in need of a period of systematic 
instruction before baptism. It would be a really rational 
and Christian form of exorcization to break the infection 
of the sinful and illusive world-order and to explain the 
nature of a distinctively Christian order of life. 

Such a restoration of its earliest meaning might save 


baptism from the religious and theological emptiness 
which now threatens its very existence. Its older doc- 
trinal meanings have leaked away or evaporated. In the 
ancient Church it was closely connected with the prev- 
alent belief in demonism. Patristic and scholastic 
theology bound it up with original sin. But we do not 
live in a realizing sense of demon powers, and original 
sin and baptismal regeneration seem to be marked for 
extinction. To say that Christ commanded it and that 
we must obey his ordinance, is equivalent to confessing 
that the act has lost its enthusiasm and its religious con- 
viction. It is simply an order, which must be obeyed. 
Why not connect baptism with the Kingdom of God? 
It has always been an exit and an entrance ; why not the 
exit from the Kingdom of Evil and the entrance into the 
Kingdom of God? That would, under right teaching 
and with the right people, give it solemn impressiveness. 
It would make it a truly Christian act. Baptism has al- 
ways been dogged by superstitions, and thrust down into 
paganism. The individualistic interpretation of it as an 
escape from damnation tainted it with selfishness. Con- 
tact with the Kingdom of God would restore baptism 
to its original ethical and spiritual purity. 

The Lord's Supper, like Baptism, has had a tragic 

The meal in the upper room at Jerusalem was the last 
of many meals in which Jesus had broken the bread 
with his friends in the close intimacy of their wandering 
life. The spirit of all the previous meals was in this 
last meal. It was pervaded by the same strong and 


holy feelings of friendship which make the disappoint- 
ment of Jesus in the garden so pathetic. It is a ques- 
tion whether Jesus' thought ran beyond the group of his 
friends when he asked for a repetition of the meal; it 
seems at least very unlikely that he purposed a cult act 
such as actually developed. His purpose was to create 
an act of loyalty which would ser\'e to keep memory and 
fidelity alive until he should return and eat and drink 
with them again in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had 
created a wonderful social group. He wanted it to hold 
together. The Lord's Supper came into existence 
through strong religious and social feeling and its pur- 
pose was the maintenance of the highest loyalty. 

In the primitive Church the memorial act was part of 
a fraternal meal in which the Christian group met in re- 
ligious privacy to express its peculiar unity and coher- 
ence. Such communistic meals, to which every member 
contributed his portion of food, were quite common 
among the religious and fraternal societies of the time. 
Communistic meals produce solidaristic fdelings even 
today. Paul was not a marked exponent of democratic 
emotions, but he was deeply shocked when he learned 
that the social character of the common meal at Corinth 
had been debased by the intrusion of the class divisions 
of the outside world. The welltodo gathered in cote- 
ries to eat their plentiful supplies, while the poor sat neg- 
lected and ashamed. His feeling testifies to the social 
beauty and power which the Lord's Supper then pos- 
sessed. (I Cor. xi, 17-34.) 

There can be no doubt that the Lord's Supper has 
always had a powerful influence in consolidating the fra- 


ternal organization of the Church. It has always been 
an inner privilege, for which preparation had to be made, 
and from which a man might be excluded; consequently 
it was prized. In the European State Churches, people 
who have become wholly indifferent to church life, still 
attend communion once a year and would regard it as 
a loss to be shut out from it. In the early Church, dis- 
cipline consisted largely in barring offenders from com- 
munion. The humiliation and sacrifices assumed by 
penitents in order to get back into the full solidarity of 
the Church shows that strong social feelings were at 
work here. Reconciliation among the members pre- 
ceded communion. None could share in the Lord's 
Supper who were in a state of enmity with other Chris- 
tians. Thus people were compelled to face Christ's law 
of love and forgiveness, and pluck the bitter root of 
pride and ill-will from their hearts. This, too, was a 
social value of the ceremony. The rubric of the Book 
of Common Prayer still empowers the minister to warn 
notorious offenders to stay aw^ay, and to do the same 
" with those, betwixt whom he perceiveth malice and 
hatred to reign, not suffering them to be partakers of the 
Lord's Table, until he know them to be reconciled." 
This is expressed also in the beautiful invitation: 

" Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your 
sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, 
and intend to lead a new life, following the command- 
ments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy 
ways : Draw near with faith, and take this holy sacra- 
ment to your comfort, and make your humble confession 
to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling." 


In the first generation, and perhaps later, the Lord^s 
Supper still had an outlook toward the coming of the 
Lord. We find this still in a significant phrase in Paul, 
who otherwise emphasized other lines of thought: 
" For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye 
proclaim the Lord's death till he come/' Now, to the 
larger part of the primitive Church the coming of the 
Lord signified the coming of the millennial reign of 
peace and righteousness on earth. The Lord's Supper 
was, therefore, connected with the realization of the 
social ideals and hopes of the Church. The prevalence | 
of prophecy in the charismatic life of primitive Chris- 
tianity points in the same direction. It acted as an in- 
terpretation of the Lord's Supper. 

The outlook toward the coming of the Lord became 
dim as time went on. The eucharistic act was cut loose 
from the fraternal meal, and thaFwas a great lessening 
of its social value. The meal was still held occasionally 
in the evening, but turned into a charitable performance 
where the rich fed the poor, and it finally ceased. The 
eucharistic act was connected with the church worship 
on Sunday morning. It developed sacramental quali- 
ties in two directions; it was mystic food, in which the 
Lord was present and through which his grace and 
power and immortal life nourished the soul; and it was 
a sacrifice offered to God. The fact that it was the 
central mystery of the esoteric ritual of the church made 
it very important as a bond of unity, but the fraternal 
feeling of the early days was lessened. It intensified 
the consciousness of God rather than the consciousness 
of man. The fraternal meal of Jesus became a chief 



means of creating the priesthood of the CathoHc Church, 
and the main door through which superstitious behefs 
came in. In time it became the mass, in which the 
priest partook of the bread and wine while the people 
watched him doing it. He might even go through the 
whole performance alone, for the benefit of a deceased 
person, according to the terms of an endowment. Thus 
the Lord's Supper lost its meaning because it was in the 
hands of a body which had neither social outlook nor 
democratic emotions. 

The Protestant Reformation concentrated on the re- 
form of the Lord's Supper. The laity shared more 
fully in it. The private mass was abolished. Some of 
the social feeling was restored. But not the social out- 
look. The act turned backward and not forward. It 
is an act of remembrance; in it we appropriate the aton- 
ing death of our Saviour. Where it is experienced most 
deeply, it is a mystic act of fellowship between the un- 
seen Lord and the silent soul of the worshipper. 

For a time the great act of fraternal love became the 
object of bitter controversial feelings between Catholic 
and Protestant, and between Lutheran and Calvinist, and 
exercised a very unsocial and divisive influence. 

While the great churches were bitterly contending 
over the question whether their Lord was physically or 
spiritually present, and if physically, whether by tran- 
substantiation or consubstantiation, the persecuted Ana- 
baptists, who had neither the right to meet nor to exist, 
had the spirit of the original institution among them. 
As in the primitive Church, their service was preceded by 


searching of heart and reconciliation, so that all might 
be one in Christ. As in the upper room at Jerusalem, 
they acted in full view of death, and their main thought 
was to gain strength for imprisonment and torture by 
once more touching the garment-hem of their Lord. 
They often dwelt on the fact that many grains of wheat 
had been crushed and had felt the heat of the oven to 
make this bread, and many berries of the vine had been 
pressed in the wine-press to make this wine; in the same 
way the followers of Jesus must pass through affliction 
and persecution in order to form the body of the Lord. 
Thus these poor proletarians, hunted by the tyrannical 
combinations of Church and State, Catholic and Prot- 
estant alike, returned to the original spirit of the Lord's 
Meal and realized that Real Presence about which others 

Can the social gospel contribute to make the Lord's 
Supper more fully an act of fraternity and to connect 
it again with the social hope of the Kingdom of God? 

In the Lord's Supper we re-affirm our supreme alle- 
giance to our Lord who taught us to know God as our 
common father and to realize that all men are our 
brethren. In the midst of a world full of divisive sel- 
fishness we thereby accept brotherhood as the ruling 
principle of our life and undertake to put it into practice 
in our private and public activities. We abjure the 
selfish use of power and wealth for the exploitation of 
our fellows. We dedicate our lives to establishing the 
Kingdom of God and to winning mankind to its laws. 
In contemplation of the death of our Lord we accept 


the possibility of risk and loss as our share of service. 
We link ourselves to his death and accept the obliga- 
tion of the cross. 

It is open to any minister to emphasize thoughts such 
as these, connecting the Lord's Supper with the King- 
dom of God. All who have the new social conscious- 
ness would feel their appeal. Any person encountering 
antagonism or loss for the sake of the Kingdom would 
find comfort and strength in connecting his troubles with 
the cross of Christ. The Lord's Supper was instituted 
by Jesus in full view of his death. We can fully share 
his spirit only when we too confront the possibility of 
suffering in the same cause. 

The emphasis on such thoughts would be the reaction 
of the social gospel on the religious and theological con- 
tent of the Lord's Supper. They would be a challenge 
to the Church to realize its mission as the social embodi- 
ment of the Christ-spirit in humanity. They would 
constitute a spiritual preparation for the actual experi- 
ence of the Real Presence — that Presence which re- 
quires a social group of two or three because love and 
the sense of solidarity are necessary to enable him to be 
in the midst of us. 



EscHATOLOGY raises two questions of profound in- 
terest to the human mind. First, What is the future of 
the individual after his brief span of years on earth is 
over? Second, What is to be the ultimate destiny of the 
human race? 

These questions are important to every thoughtful 
mind, and they are inseparable from religion. Religion 
is always eschatological. Its characteristic is faith. It 
lives in and for the future. In all other parts of our 
life we deal with imperfect things, fluctuating, condi- 
tioned, relative, and never complete. In religion we 
seek for the final realities, the absolute values, the things 
as God sees them, complete, in organic union. 

All religions of higher development have some 
mythology about the future. The Christian religion 
needs a Christian eschatology. To be satisfying to the 
Christian consciousness any teaching concerning the 
future life of the individual must express that high valu- 
ation of the eternal worth of the soul which we have 
learned from Christ, and must not contradict or sully 
the revelation of the justice, love, and forgiving mercy 
of our heavenly Father contained in his words, his life, 
and his personality. Any doctrine about the future of 

the race which is to guide our thought and action, must 



view it from distinctively Christian, ethical points of 
view, and must not contradict what is historically and 
scientifically certain. 

In fact, however, our traditional eschatology never 
was a purely Christian product, growing organically 
from Christian soil and expressing distinctively Chris- 
tian convictions. It is more in the nature of an histor- 
ical mosaic combining fragments of non-christian and 
pre-christian systems with genuine Christian ideas. It 
took shape under special historical conditions, and was 
broken up and shaped afresh to express other conditions, 
but in no case was it shaped to suit our modern needs. 
Like all eschatologies it expresses ideas about the uni- 
verse, but these cosmic conceptions are pre-scientific. 
The world protrayed in them is the world of the Ptole- 
maic system, a world three stories high, with heaven 
above and hell beneath. During the formative cen- 
turies the Oriental and Greek religious life, which deeply 
influenced Christianity, was dualistic, and whatever in- 
fluences have come from that source are not only his- 
torically but essentially unchristian. A Christian mind 
can get most satisfaction by contemplating how the 
genius of the Christian religion took this heterogeneous 
and often alien material and made something approxi- 
mately Christian of it after all. 

As a consequence eschatology is usually loved in in- 
verse proportion to the square of the mental diameter of 
those who do the loving. Calvin was the greatest 
exegete of his day and he wrote commentaries on nearly 
all the books of the Old and New Testaments, but he 
gave the Apocalypse a wide berth. No interpretation 


of this main biblical source ever won general consent as 
long as it was interpreted doctrinally. The wise threw 
up their hands; those who devoted their minds to it, 
often suffered from mild obsession. Our generation is 
the first in eighteen hundred years to understand this 
book as its author, or authors, meant it to be understood, 
and now it is one of the most enlightening and interest- 
ing books of them all. In primitive Christianity es- 
chatology was in the centre of religious interest and 
thought. Today it is on the circumference, and with 
some Christians it lies outside the circumference. Theo- 
logians of liberal views are brief or apologetic when 
they reach eschatology. This situation is deeply regret- 
table. Perhaps no other section of theology is so much 
in need of a thorough rejuvenation. 

Those who believe in the social gospel are especially 
concerned in this element of weakness in theology. The 
social gospel seeks to develop the vision of the Church 
toward the future and to co-operate with the will of 
God which is shaping the destinies of humanity. It 
would be aided and reinforced by a modern and truly 
Christian conception about the future of mankind. At 
present no other theological influence so hampers and 
obstructs the social gospel as that of eschatology. All 
considerations taken from the life of the twentieth cen- 
tury cry out for something like the social gospel ; but the 
ideas of the first century contained in eschatology are 
used to veto it Those who have trained their religious 
thinking on the Hebrew prophets and the genuine teach- 
ings of Jesus are for the social gospel; those who have 
trained it on apocalyptic ideas are against it. This is 


all the more pathetic because the pre-millennial scheme 
is really an outline of the social salvation of the race. 
Those who hold it exhibit real interest in social and po- 
litical events. But they are best pleased when they see 
humanity defeated and collapsing, for then salvation is 
nigh. Active work for the salvation of the social order 
Eefore the coming of Christ is not only vain but against 
the will of God. Thus eschatology defeats the Chris- 
tian imperative of righteousness and salvation. 

Historical science and the social gospel together may 
be able to affect eschatology for good. Historical 
criticism by itself makes it look imbecile and has no 
creative power. The social gospel has that moral 
earnestness and religious faith which exerts construc- 
tive influence on doctrine. 

In the first place, the social gospel can at least give us 
a sympathetic understanding and right valuation of some 
of the elements contained in the inherited body of ideas. 
A merely theological comprehension of it is a false un- 
derstanding. It must be understood historically in con- 
nection with the social situations which created its parts, 
like the buildings on an old college campus, or like the 
Constitution and its amendments. 

Those parts of Christian eschatology which deal with 
the future of the race are on the whole derived from 
Judaism, and we owe their ethical qualities to the valiant 
democratic spirit of the prophets. Their " Day of 
Yahveh " became our " Great Judgment " ; the time of 
peace and righteousness which was to follow it became 
the Christian millennium. The whole was originally 


the religious equivalent of a wholesome revolution in 
which the oppressing class is eliminated and the right- 
eous poor get relief. This central section of Christian 
eschatology was the product of the brave fight which 
Jehovah and his people made together for the ancestral 
freedom of the common people. The idea of a resur- 
rection of the dead did not come into eschatology through 
growing individualism, but out of the feeling that the 
righteous who had died before the inauguration of the 
new order were entitled to a share in the common hap- 
piness. Demonology and satanology, which pervaded 
Jewish eschatology after the exile, were, as we have 
pointed out, in part a religious expression of social and 
political hatred and despair. 

Those parts of eschatology which deal with the future 
of the individual were in the main derived from contem- 
porary Greek life. Greek religion was characterized by 
a profound desire for immortality and an equally deep 
sense of the sin and sadness of this earthly life. The 
"mysteries" ministered to this desire; Christianity did 
it more effectively. In turn these religious desires 
brought out and strengthened those eschatological facts 
and ideas in Christianity which could serve them. Here 
we have one chief cause for the increasing other-world- 
liness of Christianity. Now, this attitude of weariness 
and resignation, which led to the immense popularity of 
ascetic ideals of life, was in part a product of the Roman 
Empire. It had clamped down its bureaucracy and its 
tax-gathering apparatus on all Mediterranean civiliza- 
tion; the method was political subjugation; the aim was 
economic exploitation. The self-government of the 


Greek states by which the citizens might have been pro- 
tected, had been put under safe control. Revolt was 
useless. If we imagine a single empire today perma- 
nently holding the seas and continents in its grip, and* 
enriching its aristocracy from the industry of others, 
with every way of escape barred, we shall understand 
the apathy of men under the Roman Empire. The 
escape into immortality was the only way to freedom 
left to all. This social condition left deep traces in 
Christian eschatology. 

Thus social causes contributed to the origin of escha- 
tological ideas. Other social causes led to their disap- 
pearance. Amid the doctrinal changes of the Protestant 
Reformation eschatology remained unchanged except 
that purgatory was cut out. It had no support in the 
canonical Scriptures. That was one motive. But, also, 
the belief in purgatory had become a prolific source of 
income for the Church. Hell was unalterable; no gifts 
or indulgences could unlock its gates. The penalties to 
be absolved in purgatory could be lightened by in- 
dulgence, and shortened by the prayers and pious works 
of friends. The indulgence system was built on this 
belief, and innumerable endowments were provided for 
masses to be read for the repose of the souls in purga- 
tory. Now, the income bearing property of the Church 
and the clergy living on it constituted the greatest social 
and economic problem of the age before the Reforma- 
tion. Wherever the Reformation received the support 
of government, church property was " secularized " or 
confiscated. When Protestant theology denied the 


existence of purgatory, it denied that the Church could 
render any quid pro quo for its vested incomes, and this 
weakened the legal and moral hold of the Church on its 
-endowments, and cut under some of the most offensive 
practices of the Church. Unless these practical consid- 
erations had made purgatory a social issue, it may be 
questioned whether the lack of biblical support for the 
doctrine would have sufficed to suppress it. The result- 
ing contest of Protestant theology against the doctrine 
of purgatory induced it, by its necessary reactions, to 
assert that the fate of the soul is fixed at death and the 
saved enter into glory. 

Perhaps the modern hesitancy about the doctrine of 
hell also has social causes. Despotic governments for- 
merly accustomed men to frequent, public, and very hor- 
rible executions, and to long and hopeless imprisonments. 
Since the spread of democracy has somewhat weakened 
the cruel grip of the governing classes, the criminal law 
has become more humane. Capital punishments have 
become less frequent, less public, and less cruel. The 
outfit of prisons has improved. There is an increasing 
feeling that punishment should not be merely vindictive 
and terrifying, but remedial and disciplinary, aiming at 
the salvation and social restoration of the offender. 
Our prisons are our human hells, where men are cut off 
from all that exercises a saving influence on our lives — 
the love of wife and child and home, work and play, 
contact with nature, hope, ambition, — only fear and co- 
ercion are in full force. If democracy should further 
weaken the hold of the governing classes on the penal 
system of the country; and if Christianity should im- 


press us with the divine worth of " the least of these " 
in prison and our obHgation to offer them salvation ; and 
if the prison system becomes redemptive; can theology 
then continue to get the moral approval of mankind for a 
divine prison which is not educational and redemptive, 
but wholly without change or end? 

Thus eschatology has all along been influenced by social 
causes, while keeping on its own conservative path of 
tradition. The Jewish people under social and political 
oppression, and the primitive Church under persecution 
wept and prayed our eschatology into existence. Our 
Apocalypse is wet with human tears and must be read 
that way. Ever since, some sections of eschatology 
have been vivified, others modified, and some consigned 
to oblivion through the pressure of social causes. Has 
not the social consciousness of our age, speaking through 
the social gospel, also a right to be heard in the shaping 
of eschatology? 

Any reformatory force taking hold of eschatology can 
not expect a fresh start, but must reckon with its tra- 
ditional contents and its biblical and theological sources. 
It may clear our path to lay down several propositions 
about this material coming from the past. 

I. In everything contributed by the Old Testament we 
should seek to distinguish what is due to the divine in- 
spiration of the prophets. We are under no obligation 
to accept the mythical ideas and cosmic speculations of 
the Hebrew people, their limited geography, their primi- 
tive astronomy, the historical outlook of the book of 
Daniel, or the Babylonian and Persian ideas which 


flowed into their religious thought. What has authority 
for us is the ethical and religious light of men who had 
an immediate consciousness of the living God, and saw 
him now and hereafter acting for righteousness, for the 
vindication of the oppressed classes, and for the purg- 
ing of the social life of the nation. These elements of 
the Old Testament carry authority because they are in 
spiritual consensus with the revelation of God in Christ. 

2. We should learn to distinguish clearly between 
prophecy and apocalypticism. There is as much dif- 
ference between them as between Paul and Pope Gregory 
I. From apocalypticism we get the little diagrams which 
map out the history of the human race on deterministic 
methods, as if God consulted the clock. From the same 
source the active belief in demonology, the reliance on 
miraculous catastrophes, and the blue light of unreality 
have always come into eschatology. Those who fill 
their minds with it, thereby tie themselves to all back- 
ward things. Apocalyptic believers necessarily insist on 
the verbal inerrancy of Scripture and oppose historical 
methods, for their work consists in piecing mosaics of 
texts. Historically we can appreciate the religious 
value of apocalypticism in later Judaism, just as we can 
appreciate the religious value of the belief in transub- 
stantiation or of scholastic theology. But as a present- 
day influence in religion it is dangerous. It has prob- 
ably done more to discredit eschatology than any other 
single influence. 

3. In the New Testament it is our business to sift out 
what is distinctively Christian in origin and spirit. It 
stands to reason that the leaven of the Christian spirit 


was not able at once to transform the inherited ideas of 
Jews and Gentiles of the first generation. For instance, 
Christianity had to struggle hard with the stubborn na- 
tionalistic pride of Judaism which claimed either a 
monopoly of messianic salvation or at least special priv- 
ileges within it. Even Paul, the chief exponent of in- 
ternational religion, could not get away from his pro- 
Jewish feelings, and thought God was saving the 
Gentiles in order to stir up the Jews and get them saved. 
Jesus did not make the judgment depend on nationality 
but on the sense of human solidarity, and repeatedly 
foreshadowed that the Jews would be supplanted. In 
the Apocalypse we are carried back into Jewish feeling 
and points of view. The mind of Jesus Christ is our 
criterion for an ethical scrutiny of these ingredients. 

4. The effort to systematize the eschatological state- 
ments of biblical writers has always been muddled by the 
supposition that they all -thought alike. There was, as 
yet, no orthodoxy. All were deeply interested in these 
questions, and men of strong conviction made their own 
formulations. The Apocalypse, Paul, and the fourth 
gospel are strikingly unlike. 

The Apocalypse expounds the old social hope of 
Israel. The great woes and the overthrow of the mystic 
Babylon have political significance. There are a thou- 
sand years of messianic peace on this earth. Even after 
the last eruption of Satan and the great judgment the 
new earth is still on the old earth; the new Jerusalem 
comes down here, and there are trees, and a river, and 
happy people. 


Paul, on the other hand, has no room for a millennium 
of flesh and blood men on a material earth. The coming 
of Christ would usher in a cosmic change; the material 
world would end and the groaning of dying creation 
would cease; the living and the dead would receive spir- 
itual bodies; therewith the last enemy. Death, would be 
overcome, and God would be all in all. In Paul the 
Jewish and the Greek streams of thought join. Prob- 
ably in this, as in other things, Paul stood for a new 
theology ; the Apocalypse comes nearer to being the prev- 
alent view of the first generation. 

In the fourth gospel and the epistles of John we see 
the future translated into the present tense. The chief 
points of primitive eschatology, the antichrist, the 
parousia, the judgment, the resurrection, are still ac- 
knowleged; but there are many antichrists now present; 
the coming of the Comforter takes the place of the 
parousia; the judgment takes place when men accept 
or reject the light; the spiritual transformation into 
eternal life takes place now. Eschatology is dissolved 
into Christology; the Kingdom of God gives way to the 
Church. It is far more instructive spiritually to see 
these different views side by side than to see them 
mangled and forced into conformity. 

5. The most troublesome problem at present is to 
determine what Jesus himself thought about the future. 
A group of able scholars has put such emphasis on the 
eschatological sayings of Jesus that he himself has been 
turned into an apocalyptic enthusiast and the authority 
of his ethical teaching has been impaired by being yoked 


with apocalyptic expectations. This school of thought 
has done valuable work, but the future will probably 
show that it has overworked its working hypothesis. 

Ordinary critical analysis eliminates a good deal of 
eschatological material as later accretions. The earliest 
of the documentary sources of the gospels, " Q," contains 
least. ^ 

All human analogies make it certain that his followers 
coloured his ideas with their own previous conceptions. 
They could not help it. Language is rich on the lower, 
and thin on the higher, spiritual levels. Men of high 
religious power have often become poetical makers of 
language because they had to wrestle with their medium 
of expression and coin new figures and terms. They 
must use the lower terminology to express the inexpressi- 
ble. Their followers, the loyal lower souls, invariably 
coarsen and materialize their teachings, taking the 
figures for realities and the accidental for the substance. 
The more original and spiritual a teacher is, the larger 
will be the inevitable ratio of misunderstanding. We 
must remember that the sayings of Jesus were repeated 
and transmitted orally for years before our earliest docu- 
ments were written. 

We see the whole situation incorrectly when we tacitly 
assume that the ideas of Jesus were uniform through- 
out his teaching ministry. If we take the doctrine of 
his real humanity seriously, he was a growing person- 
ality, and his ideas were in the making. A man's ideas 

1 Harnack, " Sayings of Jesus," p. 250. " The tendency to exag- 
gerate the apocalyptic and eschatological elements in our Lord's 
message and to subordinate to this the merely religious and ethical 
elements, will ever find its refutation in Q." 


are developed by reacting on the ideas of his fellow men 
by assent or dissent. It is vital to this problem to know 
in what direction Jesus was working, into apocalypticism 
or out of it. We can see that he began with a Jewish 
horizon and broke his way into a world-wide and human 
world. How about his eschatology? His earliest para- 
bles are a decisive answer. He chose that form of 
teaching because he wanted to veil and yet reveal his 
polemical departure from current messianic ideas. He 
took his illustrations from organic life to express the idea 
of the gradual growth of the Kingdom. He was shak- 
ing off catastrophic ideas and substituting developmental 
ideas. John had put the judgment at the beginning of 
the Messiah's work; Jesus pushed it over to the end. 
He had no taste for that part of the Messianic program. 
In short, apocalypticism was part of the environment in 
which he began his thinking; it was not his personal 
product; he was emancipating himself from it. This is 

The intellect of Jesus was religious and prophetic; 
it was not constructed for apocalypticism. It had too 
many windows. Paul's ethical teaching got its orienta- 
tion from his eschatology. The ethics of Jesus would 
have remained the same if the range of time had 
lengthened before him. His mind did push impetuously 
forward, but not toward a scheme of distant events, but 
toward the immediate saving acts of God. To him the 
Kingdom of God was both future and present. Who- 
ever can harbour that antimony has risen above apocalyp- 


6. The eschatological schemes of primitive Christianity 
were all based on the supposition that the end would 
come soon. If Paul expected a longer interval in his 
later life, it was a matter of years, not of centuries. 
The actual duration of the present world for nineteen 
hundred years has disrupted the whole outline. The 
judgment and the general resurrection of the dead were 
necessary parts of the Jewish eschatology because the 
judgment was needed to decide who was to share in the 
Messianic happiness, and the resurrection enabled the 
dead to have their part in it. But what is the use of 
the judgment if the fate of every man is decided at his 
death and he goes directly to heaven or hell? And why 
should a Christian of the first century receive his body 
again at the general resurrection when he has lived in 
heaven without it for eighteen hundred years? 

History is a revelation of God's will. God thinks in 
action, and speaks in events. His historical realities are 
a surer word of God than any prophecy. The least of 
us today knows things which would have revolutionized 
the eschatology of the apostles. Are we obedient to the 
revelation of God if we think more of the sprouting 
grain than of the full ear, and artificially put ourselves 
back where we do not belong? 

7. The early Catholic Church dealt reverently with 
the primitive eschatology, and yet changed it profoundly. 
The earthly millennium was very dear to the common 
people, but the intellectuals and college graduates who 
had studied Greek philosophy, had no use for it. The 
Gnostics hated it, and the semi-Gnostic Alexandrian 


theology undermined it. What sort of reHgious ideal 
was this which pictured fertile fields and vineyards, lots 
of babies romping, and old men holding on to life for 
a hundred years? How did that chime with a holy de- 
sire for heaven and the "angelic life" of asceticism? 
Moreover how did the theocratic and fraternal social 
order pictured in the millennial ideal square with the 
Roman Empire, the present distribution of property, the 
eminence of the upper classes, the permanence of church 
institutions, and the power of the bishops? (Church 
historians usually dwell on the theological objections to 
the " carnal " millennial ideas, but fail to see how dis- 
tasteful the social elements of the millennial ideal must 
have been to those who controlled the teaching of the 
Church.) So the millennium was dropped out, while 
the safer and more distant parts of the Jewish escha- 
tology were retained. Personal immortality, of course, 
had long ago crowded the racial eschatology aside in 
point of real interest. 

But the most decisive fact in transforming the sub- 
stance of primitive eschatology was the Church itself. 
Its future was now the future of Christianity. In Jew- 
ish eschatology there was no Church in the picture ; only 
the people. In primitive Christian thought the Church 
was real, but it was like a temporary house put up to 
shelter the believers till the Lord came and the real sal- 
vation began. But the Parousia did not come, and the 
temporary shelter grew and grew, and became the main 
thing. Even if the doctrines of eschatology had been 
kept unchanged, they would no longer have been the same 
after the Catholic Church had come on the scene. 


The considerations discussed above are necessary, it 
seems to me, for a proper understanding and valuation 
of the bibhcal material in traditional eschatology. A 
few constructive propositions can now be made about the 
future of the race. 

1. The future development of the race should have a 
larger place in practical Christian teaching. The great 
ethical issues of the future lie in this field, and the 
mind of Christian men and women should be active 
there. If we can not be guided by moral and spiritual 
thought, we shall be guided by bitter experience. The 
Great War is in truth a grim discussion of the future 
of the race on this planet, but a discussion with both 
reason and religion left out. We have the amplest war- 
rant for directing the prophetic thought of religious men 
toward the social and political future of humanity, for 
all eschatology derived from Hebrew sources dealt with 
these interests. A stronger emphasis on the future of 
the race will simply restore the genuinely Christian em- 
phasis. But if Christian teachers are to teach truth 
about history, they must have truth to teach. If all 
ministers and Bible School teachers should now sud- 
denly begin to talk on these subjects, the angels above 
would probably be astonished to see a still thicker vapour 
of partisan fury and nationalistic egotism rising from 
all countries. 

2. All Christian discussions of the past and the future 
must be religious, and filled with the consciousness of 
God in human affairs. God is in history. He has the 
initiative. Where others see blind forces working 
dumb agony, we must see moral will working toward re- 


demption and education. A religious view of history 
involves a profound sense of the importance of moral 
issues in social life. Sin ruins; righteousness establishes, 
and love consolidates. In the last resort the issues of 
future history lie in the moral qualities and religious 
faith of nations. This is the substance of all Hebrew 
and Christian eschatology. 

3. We need a restoration of the millennial hope, which 
the Catholic Church dropped out of eschatology. It 
was crude in its form but wholly right in its substance. 
The duration of a thousand years is a guess and imma- 
terial. All efforts to fix " times and seasons " are futile. 
But the ideal of a social life in which the law of Christ 
shall prevail, and in which its prevalence shall result in 
peace, justice and a glorious blossoming of human life, 
is a Christian ideal. An outlook toward the future in 
which the ** spiritual life " is saved and the economic 
life is left unsaved is both unchristian and stupid. If 
men in the past have given a " carnal " colouring of rich- 
ness to the millennial hope, let us renounce that part, and 
leave the ideals of luxury and excess to men of the pres- 
ent capitalistic order. Our chief interest in any millen- 
nium is the desire for a social order in which the worth 
and freedom of every least human being w^ill be honoured 
and protected ; in which the brotherhood of man will be 
expressed in the common possession of the economic re- 
sources of society; and in which the spiritual good of 
humanity will be set high above the private profit in- 
terests of all materialistic groups. We hope for such 
an order for humanity as we hope for heaven for our- 


4. As to the way in which the Christian ideal of 
society is to come, — we must shift from catastrophe to 
development. Since the first century the divine Logos 
has taught us the universality of Law, and we must ap- 
ply it to the development of the Kingdom of God. It is 
the untaught and pagan mind which sees God's presence 
only in miraculous and thundering action; the more 
Christian our intellect becomes, the more we see God in 
growth. By insisting on organic development we shall 
follow the lead of Jesus when, in his parables of the 
sower and of the seed growing secretly, he tried to edu- 
cate his disciples away from catastrophes to an under- 
standing of organic growth. We shall also be follow- 
ing the lead of the fourth gospel, which translated the 
termxS of eschatology into the operation of present spir- 
itual forces. We shall be following the lead of the 
Church in bringing the future hope down from the 
clouds and identifying it with the Church; except that 
we do not confine it to the single institution of the 
Church, but see the coming of the Kingdom of God in all 
ethical and spiritual progress of mankind. To convert 
the catastrophic terminology of the old eschatology into 
developmental terms is another way of expressing faith 
in the immanence of God and in the presence of Christ. 
It is more religious to believe in a present than in an 
absent and future Christ. Jesus saw the Kingdom as 
present and future. This change from catastrophe to 
development is the most essential step to enable modern 
men to appreciate the Christian hope.^ 

1 Pfieiderer, "Grundriss der chrlstlichen Glaubenslehre/' §177, has 
this fine summary : " The primitive Christian faith in the return of 


5. This process will have to utilize all constructive and 
educational forces in humanity. In our conception of 
personal regeneration, likewise, we have been compelled to 
think less of emotional crises and more of religious nur- 
ture and education. The coming of the Kingdom of 
God will be the regeneration of the super-personal life 
of the race, and will work out a social expression of what 
was contained in the personality of Christ. 

6. The coming of the Kingdom of God will not be 
by peaceful development only, but by conflict with the 
Kingdom of Evil. We should estimate the power of 
sin too lightly if we forecast a smooth road. Nor does 
the insistence on continuous development eliminate the 
possibility and value of catastrophes. Political and 
social revolutions may shake down the fortifications of 
the Kingdom of Evil in a day. The Great War is a 
catastrophic stage in the coming of the Kingdom of God. 
Its direct effects will operate for generations. Our de- 
scendants will have a better perspective than we to see 
how all the sins of modern civilization have brought 
forth death after their own kind, and how the social 
repentance of nations may lay the foundation for a new 

Christ and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth embodied 
the ideal of an earthly realization of the Kingdom of God. It set 
up the extensive and intensive penetration of humanity by the 
Christian spirit as the aim and task of history. The victorious 
coming and kingly rule of Christ on earth is achieved by the 
organization of all mankind in a fellowship of children of God, and 
by the continuous ethical transformation of all society through the 
power of the Christian spirit. But since this takes place within the 
historic life of nations, the process is bound to human conditions 
and limits." 


7. An eschatology which is expressed in terms of 
historic development has no final consummation. Its 
consummations are always the basis for further develop- 
ment. The Kingdom of God is alv^ays coming, but 
we can never say " Lo here." Theologians often assert 
that this would be unsatisfactory. " A kingdom of 
social righteousness can never be perfect; man remains 
flesh; new generations would have to be trained anew; 
only by a world-catastrophe can the Kingdom of glory 
be realized.'' Apparently we have to postulate a static 
condition in order to give our minds a rest; an endless 
perspective of development is too taxing. Fortunately 
God is not tired as easily as we. If he called humanity 
to a halt in a " kingdom of glory," he would have on 
his hands some millions of eager spirits whom he has 
himself trained to ceaseless aspiration and achievement, 
and they would be dying of ennui. Besides, what is the 
use of a perfect ideal which never happens? A progres- 
sive Kingdom of righteousness happens all the time in 
instalments, like our own sanctification. Our race will 
come to an end in due time; the astronomical clock is 
already ticking which will ring in the end. Meanwhile 
we are on the march toward the Kingdom of God, and 
getting our reward by every fractional realization of it 
which makes us hungry for more. A stationary hu- 
manity would be a dead humanity. The life of the race 
is in its growth. 

Since at death we emigrate from the social life of 
mankind, the future life of the individual might seem to 
lie outside of the scope of our discussion. But in truth 


our conceptions of the life hereafter are deeply af- 
fected by the fundamental convictions of the social gos- 

1. There is no inherent contradiction whatever be- 
tween the hope of the progressive development of man- 
kind toward the Kingdom of God and the hope of the 
consummation of our personal life in an existence after 
death. The religious belief in the future life is often 
bitterly attacked by social radicals because in actual 
practice the deep interest in it which is cultivated by the 
Church, weakens interest in social justice and acts as a 
narcotic to numb the sense of wrong. The more the 
social gospel does its work within the Church, the more 
will this moral suspicion against the doctrine of the 
future hfe lessen. 

2. Belief in a future life is not essential to religious 
faith. The religious minds who speak to us from the 
pages of the Old Testament, though they probably be- 
lieved in future existence, apparently gained neither 
comfort nor incentive from that belief. There is doubt- 
less an increasing number of religious men and women 
today who find their satisfaction in serving God now, 
but expect their personal existence to end at death. 

The hope that we shall survive death is not a self- 
evident proposition. When it is intelligent, it is an act 
of faith, — a tremendous assertion of faith. It may get 
support from science, from philosophy, or from psychical 
research, but its main supports are the resurrection of 
Christ, his teachings, and the common faith of the 
Christian Church, which all embolden the individual. 
Further, the sense of personality, which is intensified 


and ennobled by the Christian life, and rises to the sense 
of imperishable worth in the assurance that we are 
children of God. 

3. The hope of a higher life for the race does not solve 
the problem of the individual. It is a matter of pro- 
found satisfaction to those whose life has really matured 
and been effective to think that they have made a con- 
tribution to the richness and the redemption of the race. 
But none of us lives out his life fully. There arc en- 
dowments in us which have never been put to use for 
others, and tastes and cravings which have been starved 
and suppressed. Moreover only a small percentage of 
men and women under present conditions are able to 
develop their powers beyond the feeblest beginnings. 
A large percentage die in childhood; uncounted others 
have been used up by labour, — shrunken and intimi- 
dated souls. Where do they come in? Is it enough 
for them to think that they have been laid like sills in 
the mud that future generations may live in the mansion 
erected on their dead bodies and souls? Besides, the 
best society on earth can not last for ever. This planet 
may end at any time and it is sure to die by collision or 
old age some time. What then will be the net product 
of all our labours? Plainly a man has a larger and 
completer hope if he looks forward to eternal life for 
himself as well as to a better destiny for the race. 

4. It is our business, however, to christianize both 
expectations. It is possible to fear hell and desire 
heaven in a pagan spirit, with a narrow-minded selfish- 
ness that cares nothing for others, and is simply an 
extension to the future life of the grabbing spirit fos- 


tered by the Kingdom of Evil. The desire for heaven 
gets Christian dignity and quahty only when it arises on 
the basis of that solidaristic state of mind which is cul- 
tivated by the social gospel. 

5. Two theories, quite unlike, are held as private 
opinions by many Christian individuals, though not 
sanctioned by traditional theology. The theory of con- 
ditional immortality is largely based on evolutionary 
ideas. It holds that only those will survive who have 
attained to a spiritual life capable of surviving. The 
theory of re-incarnation, which has been held by a few 
eminent minds in theology and by many outside of it, 
comes to us mostly through theosophical channels from 
the East. It teaches that we live in a succession of lives, 
each of them adapted to the spiritual attainments of the 
individual and disciplinary in its effect; through them 
we can gradually exhaust the possibilities of human life 
and rise to spiritual levels above man. 

The social gospel could utilize the latter idea if it 
were commonly held. It w^ould be an attractive idea to 
those who have fought for humanity, to come back to 
this earth and help on the Cause once more, beginning 
afresh on the basis of the experiences and character 
attained in the present life. The reward of a fine life, 
then, would be more life of the same kind. On the 
other hand there would be remarkable chances of retri- 
bution and purgation. A man who has prostituted 
women, might be re-incarnated as a prostitute and see 
how he likes it. A woman who has lived softly on the 
proceeds of child labour might be re-born as a little 


Georgia girl working in a cotton mill. A man who has 
helped to lynch a negro, might be born in a black skin 
and be lynched by his own grandsons. 

Both theories, however, are somewhat aristocratic in 
their effect. When we consider the terrible inequality 
of opportunity for spiritual development in our present 
world, it does not convey a sense of Christian solidarity 
to think of a minority climbing into eternal life while 
the majority wilt away like unfertilized blossoms. 

The theory of re-incarnation seems to offer a fair 
chance for all, provided each soul is really started in the 
exact environment which it has earned by its past life 
and in which it can best develop for the future. The- 
osophists have devised a spiritual bureaucracy of 
*' Masters " or higher spiritual beings who manage this 
very essential matter. In actual practice it is interesting 
to observe that those who profess to have a recollection 
of past existences, all seem to have been stately and 
famous personages. They do sometimes become savages 
or courtesans for one life-time to expiate dark deeds of 
vengeance, or as interesting slumming expeditions. The 
plain people who just raise hogs or sell cheese in one 
existence, seem to forget it in the next, which is very 

It is a more serious question whether this doctrine is 
not incompatible with social unrest and indignation. If 
the poor are in their present condition because they have 
deserved it in a previous life, why should we worry about 
them? The present child-labourers may be former 
stock-holders who have come back to get the other side, 
and v/e should be interfering with justice by trying to 


Uplift them. If people living in bad tenements are in 
the conditions best adapted to their future spiritual de- 
velopment in later incarnations, we may be tampering 
with things too high for us in condemning the tenements. 
This doctrine explains the present inequalities too well. 
It seems to cut the nerve of the social movement much 
more effectively than the hope of heaven ever did. 

Of course the Christian realm of grace would dis- 
appear, and a reign of Karma and exact retribution would 
supplant it. 

6. The most unattractive element in the orthodox 
outlook on the future life is the immediate fixity of the 
two states. When we die, our destiny is imxmediately 
and irrevocably settled for us. As the Westminster 
Larger Catechism (Question 86) has it: 

The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of 
the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is in that 
their souls are then made perfect in holiness and received into 
the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light 
and glory; waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, 
which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their 
graves as in beds, till at the last day they be again united to 
their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death 
cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter dark- 
ness ; and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, 
until the resurrection and judgment of the great day. 

This belief was novel at the time of the Reformation, 
and the precision and emphasis of this statement are 
directed against the idea of purgatory. The idea of a 
fixed condition is so unlike any life we know and so 
contradictory of our aspirations that our imagination 
stands still before a tedious sameness of bliss. The rich 


diversification in Dante shows the possibihty of the other 
view.^ We want the possibility of growth. We can 
not conceive of finite existence or of human happiness 
except in terms of growth. It would be more satis- 
factory for modern minds and for Christian minds to 
think of an unlimited scale of ascent toward God, reach- 
ing from the lowest to the highest, within which every 
spirit w^ould hold the place for which it was fitted, and 
each could advance as it grew. This would satisfy our 
sense of justice. Believers in the social gospel will 
probably agree that some people have deserved hell and 
ought to get theirs. But no man, in any human sense 
of justice, has deserved an eternity of hell. On the other 
hand, it jars our sense of justice to see some individuals 
go to heaven totally exempt. They have given hell to 
others and ought to have a taste of it somewhere, even if 
they are regenerate and saved men. 

7. This idea would also satisfy our Christian faith in 
the redeeming mercy of God. In this ascending scale 
of beings none would be so high that he could not be 
drawn still closer to God, and none so low that he would 
be beyond the love of God. God w^ould still be teaching* 
and saving all. If we learned in heaven that a minority 
were in hell, we should look at God to see what he was 
going to do about it; and if he did nothing, we should 
look at Jesus to see how this harmonized with what he 
taught us about his Father; and if he did nothing, some- 
thing would die out of heaven. Jonathan Edwards 

1 Prof. William Adams Brown, in the closing pages of his 
"Christian Theology in Outline," points out the need for progress, 
and explains the hold which the doctrine of purgatory has on 


demanded that we should rejoice in the damnation of 
those whom the sovereign election of God abandoned to 
everlasting torment. Very justly, for we ought to be 
able to rejoice in what God does. But we can not rejoice 
in hell. It can't be done. At least by Christians. The 
more Christian Christ has made a soul, the more it 
would mourn for the lost brothers. The conception of 
a permanent hell was tolerable only while God was con- 
ceived as an autocratic sovereign dealing with his sub- 
jects; it becomes intolerable when the Father deals with 
his children. 

To-day many Protestants are allowing the physical 
fires of hell to go out, and make the pain of hell to 
consist in the separation from God. They base the 
continuance of hell, not on the sovereign decree of God 
but on the progressive power of sin which gradually ex- 
tinguishes all love of good and therewith all capacity 
for salvation. But this remains to be proven. Who 
has ever met a man that had no soft spot of tenderness, 
no homesick yearning after uprightness left in him? If 
God has not locked the door of hell from the outside, 
but men remain in it because they prefer the darkness, 
then there is bound to be a Christian invasion of hell. 
All the most Christian souls in heaven would get down 
there and share the life of the wicked, in the high hope 
that after all some scintilla of heavenly fire was still 
smouldering and could be fanned into life. And they 
would be headed by Him who could not stand it to think 
of ninety-nine saved and one caught among the thorns. 

The idea of two fixed groups does not satisfy any real 
requirement. Men justly feared the earlier Universal- 


ist doctrine that all men enter salvation at death. That 
took sin lightly and offended the sense of justice. The 
idea of a scale of life in which each would be as far 
from God and in as much darkness and narrowness as 
he deserved, would constitute a grave admonition to 
every soul. Indeed it would contain more summons to 
self-discipline than the present idea that as long as a man 
is saved at all, he is saved completely and escapes all 
consequences. To-day the belief in hell has weakened 
in great numbers of people, and in that case there is no 
element of fear at all to aid men in self-control. The 
Christian idea would have to combine the just effects of 
sin for all and the operation of saving mercy on all. 

8. Our personal eschatology is characterized by an 
unsocial individualism. In the present life we are bound 
up with wife and children, with friends and work-mates, 
in a warm organism of complex life. When we die, 
we join — what? A throng of souls, an unorganized 
crowd of saints, who each carry a harp and have not 
even organized an orchestra. The question is even 
debated whether we shall know each other in heaven, 
and whether we shall remember and have a sense of our 
identity. What satisfaction would there be in talking 
to Isaiah or Paul if they could not remember what books 
they wrote and at last set our minds at rest on those 
questions of criticism? Anyone trained in the mind of 
Christ by the social gospel wants organic relations of 
duty and friendship. How can we become more Christ- 
like on earth or in heaven except by love and service? 
The chief effort of the Holy Spirit in our earthly life 


was to develop our capacity for love and our sense of 
solidarity and responsibility. Is this training to go for 
nothing in heaven, or is this present life the real prepa- 
ration for the kind of life we are to live there, and the 
basis for promotion and growth? If the future life is to 
be the consummation of all that is good and divine here, 
it must offer fellowship with God and man. This is the 
point to be insisted on in our popular teaching, and not 
the painlessness and the eternal rest. 

9. And how about labour and service? Is not our 
heaven too much a heaven of idleness? It looks as if it 
had been conceived by oppressed and exploited people 
who regarded labour as a curse and wanted a rest more 
than anything else. The social gospel wants to see all 
men on earth at productive work, but none doing too 
much of it. It carries that expectation into the idea of 
heaven. Dr. William N. Clarke, who was a most loving 
heart and had no child of his own, makes the point in 
his " Outline of Christian Theology " (pp. 419-20) 
that a third part of humanity dies in childhood, with 
undeveloped personality. " This significant fact has 
never yet been admitted to the popular thought of the 
future life, or exerted its due influence in theology." If 
these youthful spirits are to grow and develop, they 
must live a life of free and responsible action. If the 
children in heaven need education and care, " oppor- 
tunities of usefulness and help must open in inexhaustible 
abundance to those who are farther advanced in holy 
experience, and the heavenly life must be intensely active 
and interesting." Dr. Clarke thought this was *' a vast 
enrichment of our ideas of the other world." 


This is a thought worthy of a man who followed a 
Master that gathered the children to his heart. The 
social gospel would add the kindred fact that a further 
large proportion of individuals are left so underde- 
veloped by our earthly social system that they deserve 
a heavenly post-graduate course to make it up to them. 
It would be a great joy in heaven to find men trooping 
in from mines and shops, and women from restaurant 
kitchens and steaming laundries, and getting their long 
delayed college education. 

This suggests another form of service. We are all 
conscious of having failed in some of our human rela- 
tions, giving indifference instead of sympathy, idleness 
instead of service, laying our burdens on others without 
lending a hand with theirs. Some have done little in 
the sum total of their life except to add to the weight 
on others, and monopolizing the opportunities which 
ought to have been shared by many. The future life 
offers a chance for reparation, not by way of kindness 
but of justice. Suppose that a stockholder has taken 
large dividends out of a mill-town, leaving only the bare 
minimum to the workers, and stripping their lives of 
what could humanize them. He followed the custom 
of his day, and the point of view of his social class hid 
the injustice from his conscience. But in the other 
world he sees things differently and becomes a belated 
convert to the social gospel. About him are the men 
and women whose souls he has starved. Would not 
justice demand that he remain on the lower levels of life 
with them until he was able to take upward with him all 
whom he had retarded? Suppose that a man sent a 


child into life without accepting the duties of father- 
hood, breaking the spirit of a girl and her family, and 
leaving his child to be submerged in poverty and vice. 
Would it not be just and Christian to require that he 
serve the soul of his child until it is what it might have 
been? Such labour and expiation might well keep us 
busy for some part of eternity, and in doing it, relation- 
ships of love and service would be formed which would 
make us fit to live closer to the Source of Love. 

Of course some of the ideas I have ventured to put 
down are simply the play of personal fancy about a 
fascinating subject. There are only a few things which 
we can claim with any assurance, and these are not based 
on a single prediction, or on some passage, the origin or 
meaning of which may be disputed, but on the substance 
of the gospel of Christ. These are : that the love of God 
will go out forever to his children, and especially to the 
neediest, drawing them to him and, where necessary, 
saving them; that personality energized by God is ever 
growing; that the law of love and solidarity will be even 
more effective in heaven than on earth; and that sal- 
vation, growth, and solidarity are conditioned on inter- 
change of service. 

The worth of personality, freedom, growth, love, 
solidarity, service, — these are marks of the Kingdom of 
God. In Christ's thought the Kingdom of God was to 
come from heaven to earth, so that God's will would be 
done on earth as it is in heaven. So then it exists in 
heaven; it is to be created on earth. All true joys on 
earth come from partial realizations of the Kingdom of 


God; the joy that awaits us will consist in living within 
the full realization of the Kingdom. Our labour for 
the Kingdom here will be our preparation for our par- 
ticipation hereafter. The degree in which we have 
absorbed the laws of the Kingdom into our character 
will determine our qualification for the life of heaven. 
If in any respect we have not been saved from the King- 
dom of Evil, we shall be aliens and beginners in the 
Kingdom of God. Thus heaven and earth are to be 
parts of the same realm. Spiritual influences come to 
us; spiritual personalities go out from us. When our 
life is in God it has continuity. 



To countless Christian minds the doctrine of the atone- 
ment has been the marrow of theology. We have re- 
served it for the close of our discussion. Does the social 
gospel contain anything v^hich v^ould verify, interpret, 
quicken, or expand that doctrine? And what form of 
the doctrine would best express and support the social 
gospel ? 

The theological interpretation of the death of Christ 
has a long and varied history. It will aid us in estimat- 
ing our modern needs if we pass it briefly in review. 

To the first disciples the death of their Lord was an 
astonishing catastrophe, an unexpected, terrible, and ap- 
parently impossible outcome of the work of the Messiah. 
For that very reason they craved an explanation of the 
event which would interpret it as a fundamental part of 
God's plan. Their method was to prove that it had been 
foretold throughout the Scripture and foreshadowed by 
typology. Paul was the first to give the death of our 
Lord a really central position in a theological system. 

But the early Church never appropriated or utilized 
more than a few leading ideas of Paul. The most popu- 
lar and elaborate theological explanation was the theory 
that Christ's death was a ransom paid to Satan. By the 

fall the human race became subject to Satan, and he had 



a rightful claim on it as its sovereign. God in mercy 
desired to emancipate humanity from the thraldom of 
Satan, but would not use his superior power to wrest 
from him what was his by legal right. So he offered 
Christ to Satan as a ransom in exchange, and Satan 
gladly accepted. But in killing the sinless Christ, Satan 
overstepped his legal claims and thereby forfeited all his 
rights. Or, according to other Fathers, Satan was at- 
tracted by the human beauty of Christ, but did not real- 
ize that this was the incarnate Logos; the marriage of 
Mary to Joseph had concealed from him the mystery of 
the incarnation. God knew beforehand that even if 
Satan took possession of the ransom, he could never hold 
Christ. So God offered Satan a bait and tricked him. 
When Satan tried to imprison Christ in Hades, he burst 
the gates and came forth with a throng of souls. This 
legal negotiation between two sovereigns reminds one of 
modern diplomacy. A few Fathers objected to the ele- 
ment of trickery, but on the whole this was the orthodox 
theology till Anselm of Canterbury substituted something 
better for it in A. D. 1098. 

Anselm's doctrine was a real advance in ethical and 
religious insight. Its main points are these : Our sin has 
robbed God of the honour due him ; an equivalent must be 
offered him before he can forgive sin; we ourselves can 
not render the ''satisfaction " due to him; God alone can; 
therefore God had to become man ; being divine and sin- 
less, his death furnished an offset and equivalent for the 
boundless sins of mankind. 

This theory has furnished the ground-work for ortho- 
dox theology ever since Anselm. Yet it raises unanswer- 


able questions and in some respects offends our Christian 
convictions. How can it satisfy justice to have an inno- 
cent one die in place of the guilty? Hov^ can God pay 
an equivalent to himself? If the debt due to God has 
been paid by the death of Christ, why is it any longer an 
act of grace on the part of God to remit sin? The debt 
we owe to God is not a financial but a moral debt; an- 
other man may discharge a debt of $ioo for me, but no 
man can discharge my obligations as a son or as a father 
for me; how then can the debt we owe to God be paid 
by another? If Christ fulfilled the law for us, why are 
we still obliged to fulfil it? These questions shock our 
Christian feeling. This is where we get when we try to 
formulate the relations between God and us on the basis 
of law and in forensic terms. It ends in wiping out the 
love and mercy of God, our most essential Christian 

The Reformation made no essential change in this doc- 
trine. Lutherans and Calvinists on the whole taught 
the same outline of atonement. God, in mercy toward 
fallen humanity, sent his Son, who shared both the di- 
vine and human nature, in order to redeem and recon- 
cile. The justice of God demands the condemnation of 
all. God can exercise mercy only if vicarious satisfaction 
is rendered. The infinite worth of the divine nature in 
Christ makes his suffering an equivalent for the infinite 
sins of mankind. Christ experienced the wTath of God 
in his suffering, and that wrath is now satisfied, so that 
God can forgive. 

These traditional theological explanations of the death 
of Christ have less biblical authority than we are ac- 


customed to suppose. The fundamental terms and 
ideas — " satisfaction," *' substitution," '' imputation," 
" merit " — are post-biblical ideas, and are alien from 
the spirit of the gospel. 

It is important to note that every theory of the atone- 
ment necessarily used terms and analogies taken from the 
social life of that age, and that the spirit and problems of 
contemporary life are always silent factors in the con- 
struction of theory. The early Church set the model of 
formulating the doctrine in the terminology of sacrifice. 
To us sacrificing is a matter of antiquarian knowledge, 
kept alive mainly by the Bible. To Christians of the 
first three centuries it was a social institution which they 
saw in operation all about them. Paul saw in the death 
of Christ the solution of the great social problem of his 
life, the abolition of the Jewish Law and the emancipation 
of Gentile missions. The theory that the death of Christ 
was a ransom to Satan was the outgrowth of the semi- 
dualistic religion of the Empire and the prevalent belief 
in the rule of demons. Anselm's theory seems to me 
clearly the product of the penitential practices of the 
medieval Church, within which Anselm lived and moved 
and which was his social order. Every priest in the 
confessional was constantly assessing the delinquencies 
of men in terms of penalty and merit, and assigning so 
much inconvenience or suffering as a " satisfaction " for 
so much sin. Perhaps the commercial and governmental 
theories of later Protestantism were the natural social 
product of the age of capitalistic merchants and of limited 


These social realities which lay back of the theories 
gave them their influence and convincing power at the 
time they originated and for a long time thereafter, but 
when these social realities disappear, the theories of 
the atonement based on them become artificial and un- 
convincing, and sometimes repulsive. Analogies and il- 
lustrations taken from the priestly slaughtering of ani- 
mals or the ritual functions of the Jewish high-priest are 
remote from our imagination, and instead of clarifying 
the facts, they themselves need elaborate explanation. 
Forensic methods and the dealings of autocratic rulers 
arouse our moral antagonism and have brought the teach- 
ings about the atonement under suspicion. 

Our dominant ideas are personality and social soli- 
darity. The problems which burden us are the social 
problems. Has the death of Christ any relation to these ? 
Have we not just as much right to connect this supreme 
religious event with our problems as Paul and Anselm 
and Calvin, and to use the terminology and methods of 
our day? In so far as the historical and social sciences 
have taught our generation to comprehend solidaristic 
facts, we are in a better situation to understand the atone- 
ment than any previous generation. 

As Christian men we believe that the death of our Lord 
concerns us all. Our sins caused it. He bore the sin 
of the world. In turn his death was somehow for our 
good. Our spiritual situation is fundamentally changed 
in consequence of it. But how? How did he bear our 
sins? How did his death affect God? How did it af- 
fect us ? These three questions we shall discuss. 


How did Jesus bear sins which he did not commit? 

The old theology replied, by imputation. But guilt 
and merit are personal. They can not be transferred 
from one person to another. We tamper with moral 
truth when we shuffle them about. Imputation is a legal 
device to enable the law to hold one man responsible for 
the crime committed by another. Imputation sees man- 
kind as a mass of individuals, and the debts of every 
individual are transferred to Christ. The solution does 
not lie in that way. 

Neither is it enough to say that Jesus bore our sins by 
sympathy. His contact with sin was a matter of expe- 
rience as well as sympathy, and experience cuts deeper. 
Child-birth and travail reveal the realities of life to a 
woman more than sympathetic observation. 

How did Jesus bear our sins? The bar to a true un- 
derstanding of the atonement has been our individualism. 
The solution of the problem lies in the recognition of 

By his human life Jesus was bound up backward and 
forward and sideward with the life of humanity. He 
received the influences of the historical life of the Jewish 
people through the channels of social tradition, and he 
transmitted the effects of his own life and personality to 
the future throu'gh the same channels. Palestine was 
only a little corner of the Roman Empire, but the full life 
of humanity was there, just as a man's little finger is 
filled with the flow of life which nourishes his whole 
body. Even the feeblest mind has some consciousness 
of the tide of life playing about him. The stronger and 
more universal a human personality is, the more will he 


consciously absorb the general life and identify himself 
with it. To a genius, or to one whose social feeling is 
made vivid and sensitive by love, even small experiences 
unlock life, and from a small circle one may prolong great 
sectors into the wider concentric circles. Jesus had an 
unparalleled sense of solidarity. Thereby he had the 
capacity to generalize his personal experiences and make 
them significant of the common life. 

Now, this race life of ours is pervaded by sin; not only 
by sporadic acts of folly, waywardness, vice or crime 
which spring spontaneously from human life, but by 
organized forces and institutions of evil which have 
stabilized the power of sin and made it effective. Our 
analysis of race sin culminated in the recognition of a 
Kingdom of Evil (Chapter IX). Jesus lived in the midst 
of that Kingdom, and it was this which killed him. 

Every personal act of sin, however isolated it may 
seem, is connected with racial sin. Evil social customs 
and ideas stimulate or facilitate it ; in turn it strengthens 
the social suggestion to evil for others. 

But personal transgression does not develop moral 
force and resentment enough to slay the prophets of 
God. It takes public and organized evil to do that. 
When a travelling pedlar cheats a farmer's wife, he is 
part and parcel of an ancient system of business which 
overreaches the customer if it can. But if the pedlar 
learns that a socialist editor is advocating a system of 
production which would abolish him and his cunning, he 
does not waylay and kill the editor to stop his pen. On 
the other hand if trade and finance have developed a 
lucrative system of evil income, such as the American 


slave trade, or the English opium trade, or the univer- 
sal liquor traffic, or Five Power Loans to China, or a 
monopoly of colonial trade, then it v^ill resist interfer- 
ence. The gigantic collective pedlar will blast reputa- 
tions by the press he controls, break men financially by 
the bank credit he controls, or ruin men politically by the 
party machinery or official power he controls. When 
Evil is organized, the prophets suffer. There is prob- 
ably not a single State of our Union which has not seen 
the reputation and financial or political standing of good 
men killed in cold blood because they sincerely opposed 
high class graft. 

These public evils so pervade the social life of human- 
ity in all times and all places that no one can share the 
common life of our race without coming under the effect 
of these collective sins. He will either sin by consenting 
in them, or he will suffer by resisting them. Jesus did 
not in any real sense bear the sin of some ancient Briton 
who beat up his wife in B. C. 56, or of some mountaineer 
in Tennessee who got drunk in A. D. 191 7. But he did 
in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of 
organized society, and they in turn are causally connected 
with all private sins. 

As one looks across human history with a mind en- 
lightened by the thought of the Kingdom of God, he sees 
a few great permanent evils which have blighted the life 
of the race and of every individual in it. They always 
change their form and yet remain the same in substance. 
Seize and fight the power of evil at any point, as you will, 
and soon one of these ruling evils will lift its head and 


Strike back at you. The stronger and more influential 
a man's life is, and the broader his moral interests, the 
deeper will be his experience of these chief evils. I have 
been impressed with the fact that so many of them 
plainly converged on Jesus and had a part in doing him to 

These evils were not as gigantic and fully developed in 
Palestine as they have been in the great Empires, includ- 
ing our own. But the fact that even in this remote cor- 
ner of the ancient world they were present and virulent, 
proves their universal power in the life of the race. 
There are few communities, a cross-section of which 
would not reveal their presence. Jesus experienced his 
full collision with them when he came to the capital of 
his nation in the last week. There is a reason why 
prophets are most likely to die at Jerusalem. 

To make this clear I shall enumerate six sins, all of a 
public nature, which combined to kill Jesus. He bore 
their crushing attack in his body and soul. He bore 
them, not by sympathy, but by direct experience. In so 
far as the personal sins of men have contributed to the 
existence of these public sins, he came into collision with 
the totality of evil in mankind. It requires no legal fic- 
tion of imputation to explain that " he was wounded for 
our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.'* 
Solidarity explains it. 

The most persistent force which pushed Jesus toward 
death, the earliest on the field and the latest on the watch, 
was religious bigotry. At that time it was embodied in 
the intellectual expounders and the devotees of Judaism 


rather than in the priests. Jesus acknowledged the ear- 
nestness and outward rectitude of his opponents. The 
traditional zeal of Judaism, the solemn injunctions of 
their most sacred books, and the punishments the nation 
had incurred by slackness and tolerance in the past, seemed 
ample justification of the vigor with which they set them- 
selves against a man who seemed to flout the Sabbath, to 
disregard the laws of fasting, to eat with profane and 
unwashed hands, to overthrow the entire doctrine of 
clean and unclean food, and to confuse all moral distinc- 
tions between good and bad by associating with irrelig- 
ious men. He was suspected of far-reaching designs 
against the religion of Jehovah; he had offered to sub- 
stitute a temple not made with hands for their ancestral 

So they counteracted him by innuendo and direct 
charges, and tried to entrap him. The great invective of 
Jesus shows that he regarded their influence as the chief 
cause for the frustration of his work. They were the 
active agents in the legal steps which led to his death and 
exerted the pressure to which Pilate had to yield. Secu- 
lar governors are but poor persecutors compared with 
men of religion. The persecutions of the Roman Em- 
pire against Christians were feeble and occasional as com- 
pared with the zeal of the Inquisition. It takes religion 
to put a steel edge on social intolerance. Just because 
it is so high and its command of social loyalty so great, 
it is pitiless when it goes wrong. 

Religious bigotry has been one of the permanent evils 
of mankind, the cause of untold social division, bitterness, 
persecution, and religious wars. It is always a social sin. 


Estimate the harm which the exponents of religion have 
done simply by suppressing the prophetic minds who had 
received from God fresh thought on spiritual and intel- 
lectual problems, and by cowing those who might have 
followed the prophets. 

Jesus was killed by ecclesiastical religion. He might 
have appeared in almost any highly developed nation and 
suffered the same fate. Certainly after religion bore 
his name, there were a thousand situations in which he 
would have been put to death by those who offered salva- 
tion in his name. Innumerable individuals contribute 
their little quota to make up this collective evil, and when 
once the common mind is charged with it, it gets in- 
numerable outlets. This sin, then, was borne by Jesus, 
not by imputation, nor by sympathy, but by direct ex- 

A second social evil which contributed to kill him was 
the combination of graft and political power. Those 
who are in control of the machinery of organized society 
are able to use it for selfish and predatory ends, turning 
into private profit what ought to serve the common good. 
In the Oberammergau Passion Play the whole plot turns 
on the cleansing of the temple. This interpretation has 
found scholarly support. The market was originally 
outside the temple gates. A location inside would be a 
trading privilege. Did the pious hierarchy take no of- 
fence at the chaffering and dickering inside of the sa- 
cred enclosure? Or was somebody making something 
out of it? Knowing what we do of human nature and 
the versatility of graft, it does not seem likely that the 


concessionaires got their inside stands for love. If this 
conjecture is true, the feehng that the Galilsean prophet 
was on the side of right would explain the ready yielding 
to his command; and the active concern of the traders 
and the hierarchy in their common business would ex- 
plain the energy with which the hostile action hencefor- 
ward moved against him. 

We are on sure ground when we realize that the pro- 
phetic leadership of Jesus endangered the power of the 
ruling class. There is always an oligarchy, wherever you 
look; monarchial and republican forms of government 
are both protective devices for the-group-that-controls- 
things. This group is the universal government. For 
every oligarchy political power is convertible into finan- 
cial income and social influence, thus satisfying the pow- 
erful double instinct for money and for power. 

In the case of the Jewish people, the Romans held the 
chief power and collected the main taxes through the 
concessionaires called the publicani or publicans. But 
considerable powers were left to the native oligarchy, es- 
pecially the control of the institutions of religion, and 
from the loyalty of the Jews to their ancestral and cen- 
trahzed faith a modest income in cash and considerable 
social prestige could be harvested. Even distant colonies 
in the pagan cities remitted the annual temple tax, and a 
poor widow dropped her two farthings. Also it was 
pleasant to be called Rabbi, and to get the best seats in 
the synagogue. Their sincere concern for their religion 
was reinforced by concern for their special privileges as 
the custodians of the religious institutions and jurisdic- 


Jesus was a prophet of religion ; they were exploiters of 
religion. This added durable fuel to their bigotry. 
They assumed that Jesus planned to stir up the revolu- 
tionary elements, and they feared that a messianic revolt 
would lose them the remnants of their power. " What- 
ever is to be done?" the fourth gospel reports them as 
saying; "if we let him alone like this, everybody will 
believe in him, and then the Romans will come and sup- 
press our holy Place and our nation.'* Caiaphas formu- 
lated the situation with Machiavellian frankness : " You 
know nothing about it. You do not understand it is in 
your interest that one man should die for the People in- 
stead of the whole nation being destroyed." ^ . 

A third historic evil is the corruption of justice. We 
remember how often the Hebrew prophets denounced the 
judges who took bribes against the poor. Bearing false 
witness was so constant an evil that it got a place in the 
decalogue. Jesus took an illustration of the power of 
prayer from the case of a widow and a hard judge; 
though the judge cared neither for religion nor public 
opinion, she got the better of him by sheer feminine per- 
sistence. But it was hard for widows who had no pull. 

Injustice between man and man is inevitable and bad 
enough. But it is far w^orse when the social institution 
set up in the name of justice gives its support to injus- 
tice. What nation can claim to be free from this ? We 
have thought of the political prisons of autocratic Russia 
as a remnant of the dark ages, but the War has shown 
that even in free countries the judicial process can swiftly 

ijohn xi, 47-50- 



break conscientious convictions and the most cherished 
rights of democracy. In our own country the delays and 
appeals permitted by our legal procedure set up a terrible 
inequality between the rich and poor. Years of public 
agitation have produced no adequate change. Even if 
the judge is wholly free from bias, the law itself in all 
countries, presumably, is on the side of property. The 
British Parliament, " the mother of free institutions," 
has always been an assembly of propertied men; only in 
recent years has it contained an efficient minority of rep- 
resentatives of the working class. Our own legislatures 
rarely contain any spokesman of the class which needs a 
voice most of all. 

As soon as Jesus was arrested, he became a victim of 
the courts. In the ecclesiastical court, we are told, dis- 
torted and bribed testimony was used. His followers 
were not present and we have no report of eye-witnesses. 
It may be that he never made the claim that he would 
come as the apocalyptic Messiah, and that it was con- 
cocted in order to have a political charge to present in the 
Roman court. The priestly court condemned him on a 
priestly charge ; he was a heretic and blasphemer. 

In the Roman court the pull of the upper classes and 
the pressure of mob clamour were allowed to influence 
judicial procedure. It was Pilate's high privilege to 
protect a man whom he felt to be innocent; he had the 
military power of Rome to back his verdict. He yielded 
to pressure because his own career, as we know from 
secular history, was corrupt ; the Jews threatened to " get 
him," and he knew they could. So he took some water 
and demonstratively washed his hands of what he yet 


consented to do. Pilate's wash-bowl deserves to be a 
mystic symbol, the counter-part of the Holy Grail. 

So Jesus made experience of one of the permanent sins 
of organized society, bearing in his own body and soul 
what so many thousands of the poor and weak have borne 
before and after, the corruption of justice. 

A fourth permanent social sin which participated in 
the death of Jesus was the mob spirit and mob action. 
The mob spirit is the social spirit gone mad. The social 
group then escapes from the control of its wiser and 
fairer habits, and is lashed into action by primitive pas- 
sions. The social spirit reacts so powerfully on individ- 
uals, that when once the restraints of self-criticism and 
self-control are shot back, the crowd gets drunk on the 
mere effluvia of its own emotions. We know only too 
well that a city of respectable and religious people will 
do fiendish acts of cruelty and obscenity. 

There are radical mobs and conservative mobs. Well- 
dressed mobs are more dangerous than ragged mobs 
because they are far more efficient. Entire nations may 
come under the mob spirit, and abdicate their judgment. 

Rarely are mobs wholly spontaneous; usually there is 
leadership to fanaticize the masses. At this point this 
sin connects with the sins of selfish leadership which we 
have analysed before. Sometimes the crowd turns 
against the oligarchy; usually the oligarchy manipulates 
the crowd. 

So it was in the case of Jesus. The mob shouted for 
the physical force man and against the man who embodied 
the better spirit of the Jewish nation. There was '' pa- 


triotism " in this choice. Pilate realized that, and tried 
to play on it by calling Jesus the king of the Jews, but the 
native politicians outplayed him. The choice was pro- 
phetic. It was the Barabbas type which led the nation 
to its doom in the Jewish War and the later risings of the 
Jewish patriots. 

So this pervasive sin of community life, the intoxica- 
tion of the social spirit, before which so many prophets 
and semi-prophets have had to quail, contributed to the 
death of Jesus. He bore it, not by sympathy or imputa- 
tion, but by experience. 

The fifth universal sin of organized society which co- 
operated in the death of Christ w^as militarism. So far 
as we know, Jesus never passed through an actual war. 
He probably never saw his home burned, his father killed, 
his sisters ravished, nor was he ever forced to bear arms. 
But that he had convictions on war is plain from his say- 
ings. " He that taketh the sword shall perish by the 
sword," shows clear comprehension of the fact that in 
war neither side gains, and that the reactions of war are 
as dangerous as the direct effects; of which fact ample 
demonstrations are before us. 

If the words spoken in his lament over Jerusalem are 
authentic, he not only foresaw that the present drift 
would carry his nation to war and destruction, but he 
regarded the acceptance of his leadership as the one 
means by which his people might have escaped their 
doom: " If thou hadst known in this day the things that 
make for peace! But now they are hidden from thine 
eyes." To his mind, then, the Kingdom of God must 


have had a conscious and definite relation to war and 
force revolution. 

With his arrest Jesus fell into the hands of the war 
system. When the soldiers stripped him, beat his back 
with the leaded whip, pressed the wreath of thorns into his 
scalp, draped a purple mantle around him and saluted this 
amusing king of the Jews, and when they blindfolded 
and struck him, asking him to prophesy who it was and 
spitting in his face, — this was the humour of the bar- 
rack room. This was fun as the professional soldiers of 
the Roman Empire saw it. The men who drove the 
spikes through his hands and feet were the equivalent of 
a firing-squad told off for duty at an execution, and w^hen 
they gambled for his clothes, they were taking their sol- 
diers' perquisites. 

The last of this group of racial sins is class contempt. 
Class pride and its obverse passion, class contempt, are 
the necessary spiritual product of class divisions. They 
are the direct negation of solidarity and love. They sub- 
stitute a semi-human, semi-ethical relation for full human 
fraternity. The class system, therefore, is a sinful de- 
nial of the Kingdom of God, and one of the character- 
istic marks and forces of the Kingdom of Evil. 

It is almost universal. Our capitalistic semi-democ- 
racy has alleviated it but not overcome it. Indeed, while 
some other nations are slowly breaking up the class sys- 
tems erected in the past, the present economic tendencies 
in our country, if allowed to go on, will inevitably build 
up a durable class system. Economic facts mock at po- 
litical theory. Sixty-five per cent of the national prop- 


erty before the war was held by two per cent of the popu- 
lation. The war has contributed enormously to the ag- 
gregation of great fortunes. ^ Parasitic incomes pro- 
duce class differences ; class differences create class pride 
and class contempt. 

This sin has always rested heavily on the great mass of 
mankind. It expresses itself in social customs and in 
the laws of a nation. Where an aristocracy exists, ei- 
ther its members are formally exempt from the degrad- 
ing forms of punishment, as in Russia, or they are osten- 
sibly liable to them but practically exempt by the inability 
to put them in prison or keep them there. 

In Roman law crucifixion was a punishment reserved 
for offenders of the lowest classes. No Roman citizen 
could be crucified. Cicero flung it at Verres as a culmi- 
nating accusation in the counts of his misrule that he had 
crucified a Roman. When Jesus was nailed to the tree, 
therefore, he bore not only the lightning shoots of physi- 
cal pain imposed by the cruelties of criminal law, but also 
that contempt for the lower classes which has always de- 
humanized the upper classes, numbed and crippled the 
spiritual self-respect of the lower classes, and set up in- 
superable barriers to the spirit of the Kingdom of God. 

Religious bigotry, the combination of graft and politi- 
cal power, the corruption of justice, the mob spirit, mili- 

iThe Minority Report of the Senate Committee on Finance, 
August 13, 1917, contains tables of 95 industrial corporations and 
50 railways in which the average income of 1911-13 is deducted 
from the net income of 1916, leaving special war profits of 100%, 
400%, 1400%, 4500% in some cases. Thus the Bethlehem Steel Cor- 
poration made over 1300% or $40,518,860, and the Du Pont Powder 
Co. over 1400% or $76,581,729. 


tarism, and class contempt, — every student of history 
will recognize that these sum up constitutional forces in 
the Kingdom of Evil. Jesus bore these sins in no legal 
or artificial sense, but in their impact on his own body 
and soul. He had not contributed to them, as we have, 
and yet they were laid on him. They were not only the 
sins of Caiaphas, Pilate, or Judas, but the social sin of all 
mankind, to which all who ever lived have contributed, 
and under which all who ever lived have suffered. ^ 

The spiritual insight of Jesus himself has added a 
further step to this solidaristic interpretation of his death. 
In the parable of the Vineyard he described the religious 
history of his nation as a continuous struggle, with God 
and his prophets on one side, and the selfish exploiters of 
religion on the other, and set his own impending death 
at the end of the prophetic succession as its culmination. 
This was an historical, social, and solidaristic interpre- 
tation of his death. 

At the close of the invective against the religious lead- 
ers (Mathew 2t,) he again outlined this historical process, 
in which the ruling classes of the past had always silenced 
the living voices of God, but managed to utilize them 

1 1 have not seen this analysis attempted before. My attention 
has been called to a sermon by President William DeWitt Hyde, 
on " The Sins which Crucified Jesus," in the collection of 
" Modern Sermons by World Scholars," Vol. IV, in which he fol- 
lows a similar line of inquiry. He specifies the envy of the 
hierarchy, the money-love of Judas, slander, and the servility of 
Pilate. But, except in the first part, dealing with the hierarchy, 
he does not place the discussion under the category of solidarity, 
and that is the decisive point of my argument. See also Henry 
Sloane Coffin, " Social Aspects of the Cross." 


posthumously among the decorative elements and author- 
ities of religion. He warned his own generation that 
they were on the point of repeating this sin by persecuting 
the new prophets whom he would send. Thereby they 
would prove that they were " the sons of them that slew 
the prophets " ; they would " fill up the measure of their 
fathers " ; and would bring upon themselves " all the 
righteous blood shed on the earth." 

His thought is that by repeating the sins of the past we 
are involved in the guilt of the past. We are linked in a 
solidarity of evil and guilt with all who have done the 
same before us, and all who will do the same after us. 
In so far then as we, by our conscious actions or our pas- 
sive consent, have repeated the sins which killed Jesus, 
we have made ourselves guilty of his death. If those 
who actually killed him stood before us, we could not 
wholly condemn them, but would have to range ourselves 
with them as men of their own kind. 

This is Christ's own theology. It is not a legal theory 
of imputation, but a conception of spiritual solidarity, by 
which our own free and personal acts constitute us par- 
takers of the guilt of others. 

Along two lines we have replied to the question how the 
sins of the world were borne by Jesus : First, the realistic 
forces which killed Jesus were not accidental and personal 
causes of his death, but were the reaction of the totality of 
racial sin against him ; and second, the guilt of those who 
did it spreads to all who re-affirm the acts which killed 
him. The key to the problem is contained in the realiza- 
tion of solidarity. 


We have understood only one side of the atonement 
when we comprehend how the sins of humanity converged 
in the death of Jesus and were borne by him. The next 
question is, in what sense this can be said to affect God 
and to change the relation of humanity to him. 

The first step toward a true view of the atonement is 
to see the death of Christ as an integral part of his life. 
Theology has made a fundamental mistake in treating 
the atonement as something distinct, and making the 
life of Jesus a mere staging for his death, a matter almost 
negligible in the work of salvation. 

It is not given to all to die a significant death. Usually, 
as we age or sicken, the work of our life and the things 
we have loved and lived for, begin to drop from our 
hands. Instead of dying fighting, we die what our 
pagan forefathers called a *' straw-death." Sometimes a 
brave life ends in a dishonorable death. The death of 
Jesus was wholly of one piece with his life. He gath- 
ered all the radiance of his character and purpose in a fo- 
cus-point of blazing light, and there he died. 

In living his life and dying his death as he did, Jesus 
lived out, confirmed, and achieved his own personality. 
He did it for himself, as well as for God and humanity. 
There was no ** merit " in the medieval sense in it; noth- 
ing superfluous which he could hand over and credit to 
others to make up their defects. Just as we owe God 
the complete best that is in us, so Jesus too owed life and 
death to God. He was under the law he had proclaimed, 
that " from him to whom much is given, much shall be 

His death was not simply an infliction from without. 


He accepted his suffering not as a fate to be warded off, 
but with inward assent and acceptance. He knew it was 
coming. '*I must go on my way to-day and to-morrow 
and the day following; for it can not be that a prophet 
perish out of Jerusalem.'' When the time came he *' set 
his face stedfastly to go to Jerusalem." The struggle in 
the garden was only the last act. Every step was a con- 
flict and a temptation, but whenever the time came for 
the next step, Jesus was ready. The spiritual and re- 
demptive value of his death was not in the quantity of 
his mental or physical suffering; (that is a caricature of 
the atonement;) it was in the willingness with which he 
took on himself this highest and hardest part of his life- 

The life of Jesus was a Hfe of love and service. At 
every moment his life was going out toward God and 
men. His death, then, had the same significance. It 
was the culmination of his life, its most luminous point, 
the most dramatic expression of his personality, the con- 
sistent assertion of the purpose and law which had ruled 
him and formed him. 

The law under which he lived was the mind and will of 
God; the purpose for which he lived was the Kingdom 
of God. Jesus had to learn that law and try out that 
purpose. He had it within him, but the great experiences 
of his life brought the will of God and the needs of the 
Kingdom to his consciousness. The events leading up to 
his death were of the highest educational importance to 
his spirit. Here he learned fully the divine attitude to- 
ward malignant sin. He entered into that attitude, made 
it his own, and thus revealed God at the point where the 


sin of the world and the mind of God were in sharpest 

He was evidently deeply helped by contemplating the 
life of the prophets before him. The historical prece- 
dents furnished by them took on the significance of a 
spiritual law to him. He constantly connected his own 
work with theirs. His mental contact was not with high- 
priests and kings, but with the men who bore the living 
God in their hearts and braved the craft of priests or the 
yell of the mob to speak his word. He taught his disci- 
ples to see themselves in the same succession. They were 
to take opposition as part of their day's work and not 
mind it. The consciousness of standing with the pro- 
phets was so uplifting to him that he made this the cul- 
mination of the beatitudes, bidding his followers to re- 
joice and be exceeding glad if they tasted the same scorn 
and hate. What the death of Jesus now does for us, the 
death of the prophets did for him. None of the later 
theories of the atonement are taught, or even touched, in 
the sayings of Jesus, except perhaps at the Lord's Supper. 
The only clear interpretation of his death from his own 
mind is this, that he ranged his sufferings in line with 
those of the prophets. This lifts the experiences and 
functions of the prophets to a very high level in the re- 
demption of mankind. 

We said that through his sufferings Jesus came into 
full understanding of God's attitude toward malignant 
sin, and adopted it. God's attitude is combined of oppo- 
sition and love. God has always borne the brunt of hu- 
man sin while loving us. He too has been gagged and 
cast out by men. He has borne our sins with a resistance 


which never yields and yet is always patient. Within hu- 
man limits Jesus acted as God acts. The non-resistance 
of Jesus, so far from being a strange or erratic part of 
his teaching, is an essential part of his conception of life 
and of his God-consciousness. When we explain it away 
or belittle it, we prove that our spirit and his do not coal- 

In the Sanhedrim, in the court of Pilate, amid the jests 
of the soldiers, Jesus had to live out the Father's mind 
and spirit. He did it in the combination of stedfastness 
and patience. The most striking thing in his bearing is 
his silence. He never yielded an inch, but neither did he 
strike back, or allow others to do it for him. " H my 
kingdom were on a level with yours," he said to Pilate, 
" my followers would fight to protect me." He did not 
answer force by force, nor anger by anger. If he had, 
the world at that point would have subdued him and he 
would have fallen away from God. If he had headed the 
Galilseans to storm Pilate's castle, he would have been a 
God- forsaken Christ. 

But his attitude was not soft. He resisted. He 
fought. Even on the cross he fought. He never fought 
so hard as then. But not with fist or stick on a physical 
level of brute force, but by the quietness which both mad- 
dens and disarms. If he had blustered, he would have 
been conquered. Christian art has misreported him when 
it makes him suffer with head down. His head was up 
and he was in command of the situation. 

We have cleared the way for the question, how this 
obedience unto death affected God. Of course, any at- 


tempt to answer this question on the part of any human 
mind, inspired or uninspired, is an attempt to express 
more than it can conceive. " God is in heaven, and thou 
art on earth; therefore let thy words be few." All 
theories on the atonement prove how unlovely the image 
of man is when he enlarges it and projects it to the skies. 
For a Christian man the only sure guide in speaking of 
God is the mind of Christ. That is our logic and meta- 

If we think of God in a human way, it seems as if the 
death of Jesus must have been a great experience for God. 
Pantheistic philosophy represents God as coming to con- 
sciousness in the spiritual life of men and rising as our 
race rises. If we believe that he is immanent in the life 
of humanity and in a fellowship of love with us as our 
Father, it does not seem too daring to think that our 
little sorrows and sins might be great sorrows to him, 
and that our spiritual triumphs might be great joys. 
What, then, would it mean to God to be in the personality 
of Jesus and to go through his suffering and death with 
him? If the principle of forgiving love had not been in 
the heart of God before, this experience would fix it there. 
If he had ever thought and felt like the Jewish Jehovah, 
he would henceforth think and feel as the Father of Jesus 
Christ. If Christ was the divine Logos — God himself 
expressing himself — then the experience of the cross 
reacted directly on the mind of God. 

We may conceive the effect of Christ's life and death 
on God in another way. 

As long as humanity lives within the Kingdom of Evil, 
it is out of spiritual unity and fellowship with God, and 


God is forced into an attitude of opposition where he 
desires to be in an attitude of love and help. Christ was 
the first to live fully within the consciousness of God and 
to share his holy and loving will. He drew others into 
his realization of God so that they too freely loved God 
and appropriated his will as their own. Thus he set in 
motion a new beginning of spiritual life within the or- 
ganized total of the race, and this henceforth pervaded 
the common life. This was the embryonic beginning 
of the Kingdom of God within the race. Therewith hu- 
manity began to be lifted to a new level of spiritual ex- 
istence. To God, who sees the end enfolded in the be- 
ginning, this initiation of a new humanity was the guar- 
antee of its potential perfection. 

This would alter the relation between God and human- 
ity from antagonism to co-operative unity of will; not 
by a legal transaction, but by the presence of a new and 
decisive factor embodied in the racial life which affected 
its spiritual value and potency. When men would learn 
to understand and love God ; and when God could by an- 
ticipation see his own life appropriated by men, God and 
men would enter into spiritual solidarity, and this would 
be the only effective reconciliation.^ 

In this change of relations Christ would be the initia- 
tor. His obedience would be the germinal cell from 
which the new organism would grow. His place within 
it would be unique. But his aim and effort would be to 
make himself not unique, but to become /' the first-born 
among many brethren." 

iThis line of thought in substance follows Schleiermacher. 


But what place does his death hold in this process of 
reconciliation? No place apart from his life, his life- 
purpose, and the development and expression of his per- 
sonality ; a very great place as the effective completion of 
his life. Men v^ere coming into fellowship with the 
Father before his death happened, and before they knew 
that it was to happen. Jesus labored to unite men with 
God without referring to his death. If he had lived for 
thirty years longer, he would have formed a great so- 
ciety of those who shared his conception and religious 
realization of God, and this would have been that nucleus 
of a new humanity which would change the relation of 
God to humanity. Indeed, we can conceive that in thirty 
years of additional life Jesus could have put the imprint 
of his mind much more clearly on the movement of 
Christianity, and protected it from the profound distor- 
tions to which it was subjected. There would have been 
an ample element of prophetic suffering without physical 
death. Death came by the wickedness of men. 

But taken in connection with his life, as the inevitable 
climax of his prophetic career, his death had an essential 
place in his work of establishing solidarity and reconcilia- 
tion between God and man. It was his supreme act of 
opposition to sin ; not even the fear or the pangs of death 
could make him yield anything of what God had given 
him to hold. It was the supreme act, also, of obedience 
to God, to which he was moved by love to God and loyalty 
to his Kingdom. Moreover, as we shall see, his power to 
assimilate others to his God-consciousness and to gather 
a new humanity, was influenced by his death, and the 


creation of such an effective nucleus is essential to any 
real reconciliation. 

This conception is free from the artificial and immoral 
elements inherent in all forensic and governmental inter- 
pretations of the atonement. It begins with the solidarity 
between God and Christ, and proceeds to the solidarity 
between God and mankind. It deals with social and re- 
ligious realities. It connects the idea of reconciliation 
and the idea of the Kingdom of God. It does not dis- 
pense with the moral effort of men and the moral re- 
newal of social life but absolutely demands both. It fur- 
nishes a mystic basis for the social revolution. It would 
be a theological conception which the social gospel could 
utilize and enforce. 

Finally we must inquire how the atonement affected 
men. What did the death of Christ add to his life in the 
way of reconciling, and redemptive power? The answer 
to this can not be narrowed down to a single influence. 
An event like the death of Jesus influences human 
thought and feeling in many ways. I shall mention three. 

First: It was the conclusive demonstration of the 
power of sin in humanity. I can not contemplate the 
force and malignancy of the six social and racial sins 
which converged on Jesus without a deep sense of the 
enormous power of evil in the world and of the bitter 
task before those who make up the cutting edge of the 
Kingdom of God. In various ways this realization comes 
to all who think of the cross of Christ. But the solidar- 
istic interpretation of the killing power of sin is by far 


the most impressive. The cross forever puts a question- 
mark alongside of any easy treatment of sin. 

Now, the surest way to make sin pall on us is to watch 
it go its full length. The first beginnings of drink, vice, 
or war are of exciting interest, but the fourth and fifth 
act make us very sick. If realistic art would only be 
faithful and tell the whole story to the end, preachers 
might suspend business. An evening out ; a broken girl ; 
a shamed family; a syphilitic baby; scrophulous bodies 
for several generations. Show us the last results at the 
beginning and we should sober up. 

Moreover, the moral cure worked by sin is most effec- 
tive in some way when we see our sin working in another 
life. A man may be willing to gamble with his own life 
and take the risk of his sport, but he may shrink from 
making another life pay for it by agony or death, — pro- 
vided he realizes the connection. Therefore it is the 
business of all who profit by sin to make the exploited 
sinner forget the social effects of his sin. The more 
innocent and lovable the victim, the more poignant the 
remorse when we realize what we have done. 

When discussing the problem of suffering, (Chapter 
XV), we made the point that pain in the physical organ- 
ism has a beneficent preventive use and purpose, and 
that social suffering serves the same purpose for society, 
provided it can be effectively brought home, and provided 
there is enough sense of sympathy and solidarity to care. 

From all these points of view the suffering of Christ 
is an incomparable demonstration of sin. Here we see 
human sin in its mature and social form; the victim has 
not contributed to it, so that the guilt can not be divided, 


palliated, or shifted; the one who suffered was loving 
and lovable beyond all others; yet great social forces 
combined with the utmost energy to kill him. 

As soon as the passion of the moment subsided and 
the " interests " were safe again, men were impressed 
with the innocence of Jesus. The more they realized the 
holiness of his Hfe, the strength of his love, the divine 
value of his person, the more would they feel the sin- 
fulness of the sin committed there. Besides, the blame 
was not confined to those who did the act ; all the interpre- 
tations of the Church emphasized the universality of the 
guilt. Every Christian has had his eye fixed on the cross 
as a place of engrossing interest. Whatever the theories 
of the atonement might be, was the death of Jesus not 
bound to produce a deeper moral earnestness of life, a 
wider sense of sin, and more self-restraint and thought- 

Suffering is Nature's publicity method to secure atten- 
tion to something that is wrong. All history demon- 
strates that men are stupid and callous to suffering, even 
to their own suffering, and that only the most effective 
means will arouse them to put a preventive stop to what 
is destroying them. In all reverence I would say that 
the cross of Christ was the most tremendous publicity 
success in the history of mankind. No event in history 
has received such earnest and constant attention. None 
has spread so much seriousness, and made men realize the 
sin of humanity from so many angles. None has so im- 
pressed them with their own complicity in it and the solid- 
arity of humanity in sin. 

In so far as a genuine consciousness of sin is the first 


step toward redemption from sin, the cross was an essen- 
tial part of the redemptive process. The life of Christ 
never spread such a realization of sin as his death has 

Second: the death of Christ was the supreme revela- 
tion of love. 

Love is the social instinct of the race. In all its many 
forms it binds man to man. Every real improvement 
of society gives love a freer chance. Every genuine 
progress must be preceded by a new capitalization of 

Jesus put love to the front in his teaching. He was 
ready to accept love for God and man as a valid equiva- 
lent for the customary religious and ethical duties. His 
own character and action are redolent of virile and ener- 
getic love. 

If Jesus had died a natural death, posterity would 
still treasure his teaching, coupled with the commentary 
of his life, as the most beautiful exposition of love. But 
its effectiveness was greatly increased by his death. 
Death has a strange power over the human imagination 
and memory. A pathetic or heroic death wins a place 
for a weak and cowardly man. If a significant death is 
added to a brave and self-sacrificing life, the effect is 
great. A righteous man might well pray for this as the 
last great blessing of his life, that his death might in- 
terpret the higher meaning of his life and weld all his 

1 The social importance of the Christian doctrine of love is j 
treated somewhat fully in my little book, " Dare We Be Christians ? " 
(Pilgrim Press.) 


labors into one by the flame of suffering. This crowning 
grace was given to Jesus. His death underscored all he 
said on love. It put the red seal of sincerity on his 
words. " Greater love hath no man than that he give 
his life for his friends." Unless he gives it for his ene- 
mies too. 

The human value of his love was translated into 
higher terms by the belief that Christ revealed and ex- 
pressed the heart and mind of God. If Christ stood for 
saving pity and tender mercy and love that seeks the lost, 
then God must be that kind of a God. It is a question 
if the teaching of Jesus alone could have made that the 
common faith of millions. His death effectively made 
God a God of love to the simplest soul, and that has 
transformed the meaning of the universe and the whole 
outlook of the race. Surely the character of the God a 
man worships reacts on the man. Suppose that our life 
has mocked our creed of love a thousand times; how 
many times would our life have mocked at love if love 
were not in our creed? Suppose the dualism of the first 
century had written pessimism and ascetic resignation 
into our creed. Suppose that instead of the Father of 
Jesus Christ we had a God who embodied the doctrine 
of the survival of the fit, the rule of the strong, and the 
suppression of the weak, how would that have affected 
the spiritual character of Western civilization? How 
much chance would there have been for democracy ? In- 
stead of that, love has been written into the character of 
God and into the ethical duty of man; not only com- 
mon love, but self-sacrificing love. And it was the death 
of Christ which furnished the chief guarantee for the 


love of God and the chief incentive to self-sacrificing 
love in men. 

It is true that the self-sacrifice generated by Christian- 
ity has been misdirected and used up for nothing in as- 
cetic Christianity. But no one can well deny that the 
sum total of self-sacrifice evoked by Christianity has 
been and is enormous, and that its influence on the de- 
velopment of Christian civilization has been very great. 
Some of the legal conceptions of the atonement have ob- 
scured the love of God in the death of Christ. But the 
fact that the Christian consciousness has reacted against 
any despotic elements in the character of God, is proof of 
the fact that the essentially Christian idea had done its 
work in us and overcome the sinful alloy with which it 
was mixed. 

Since we live in the fellowship of a God of love, we are 
living in a realm of grace as friends and sons of God. 
We do not have to earn all we get by producing merit. 
We live on grace and what we do is slight compared with 
what is done for us. 

This conviction, too, is based on the death of Christ. 
Belief in the atonement has enabled religious souls first 
to break away from self-made righteousness and to real- 
ize salvation as a gift. With their eye on the cross of 
Christ they denied the merit system, first of Judaism, 
later of the Catholic Church. The great religious char- 
acters are those who escaped from themselves and learned 
to depend on God, — Paul, Augustine, Saint Francis, 
Tauler on whom Luther fed, Luther himself. 

Self -earned righteousness and pride in self are the 


marks of religious individualism. Humility is the ca- 
pacity to realize that we count for Httle in ourselves and 
must take our place in a larger fellowship of life. 
Therefore humility and dependence on grace are social 

The cross is the monumental fact telling of grace and 
inviting repentance and humility. 

Thus the death of Christ was the conclusive and effec- 
tive expression of the love of Jesus Christ for God and 
man, and his complete devotion to the Kingdom of God. 
The more his personality was understood to be the full 
and complete expression of the character of God, the 
more did his death become the assurance and guarantee 
that God loves us, forgives us, and is willing to do all 
things to save us. 

It is the business of theologians and preachers to make 
the atonement effective in producing the characteristic 
of love in Christian men and women. If it does not 
assimilate them to the mind of Christ it has missed its 
purpose. We can either be saved by non-ethical sacra- 
mental methods, or by absorbing the moral character of 
Jesus into our own character. Let every man judge 
which is the salvation he wants. 

The social gospel is based on the belief that love is 
the only true working principle of human society. It 
teaches that the Kingdom of Evil has thrust love aside 
and employed force, because love will support only a fra- 
ternal distribution of property and power, while force 
will support exploitation and oppression. If love is the 
fundamental quality in God, it must be part of the con- 


stitution of humanity. Then it can not be impossible 
to found society on love. The atonement is the symbol 
and basis of a new social order. 

Third: the death of Christ has reinforced prophetic 

Historical criticism has performed an inestimable serv- 
ice to true religion by clearing up the historical antagon- 

Xism between priest and prophet in the Old Testament, 
and labeling the literary documents of Jewish religion 
according to the religious interest which produced or re- 
edited them. This antagonism is a permanent element 
in the Christian religion, and part of the conflict between 

•'-the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil. A com- 
prehension of the difference between prophet and priest 
is essential to a clear understanding of Jesus and to in- 
telligent discipleship. 

The priest is the religious professional. He performs 
religious functions which others are not allowed to per- 
form. It is therefore to his interest to deny the right 
of free access to God, and to interpose himself and his 
ceremonial between the common man and God. He 
has an interest in representing God as remote, liable to 
anger, jealous of his rights, and quick to punish, be- 
cause this gives importance to the ritual methods of pla- 

^ eating God which the priest alone can handle. It is 
essential to the priestly interest to establish a monopoly of 
rights and functions for his group. He is all for au- 
thority, and in some form or other he is always a 

^The importance of prophecy within the Christian religion has 
been discussed in part in Chapter XVI. 


Spokesman of that authority and shares its influence. 
Doctrine and history as he teaches it, estabHsh a jure 
divino institution of his order, which is transmitted either 
by physical descent, as in the Aaronic priesthood, or by 
spiritual descent through some form of exclusive ordina- 
tion, as in the Catholic priesthood. As history invari- 
ably contradicts his claims, he frequently tampers with 
history by Deuteronomic codes or Pseudo-Isidorian De- 
cretals, in order to secure precedents and the weight of 
antiquity. He is opposed to free historical investiga- 
tion because this tears open the protective web of ideal- 
ized history and doctrine which he has woven about him. 
He is the middle man of religion, and like other middle- 
men he is sincerely convinced that he is necessary for the 
good of humanity and that religion would perish with- 
out him. But underneath all is the selfish interest of his 
class, which exploits religion. 

The prophet becomes a prophet by some personal ex- 
perience of God, which henceforth is the dominant reality 
of his life. It creates inward convictions which become 
his message to men. Usually after great inward con- 
flicts and the bursting of priest-made barriers he has dis- 
covered the way of access to God, and has found him 
wonderful, — just, merciful, free. As a result of his 
own experience he usually becomes the constitutional en- 
emy of priestly religion, the scorner of sacrificial and 
ritual doings, a voice of doubt about the doctrines and 
the literature which shelter the priest. He too is a 
middle-man, but he wants no monopoly. His highest 
desire is to have all men share what he has experienced. 
If his own caste or people claim special privileges as a 


divinely descended caste or a chosen people, he is always 
for some expansion of religious rights, for a crossing of 
boundaries and a larger unity. His interest is in free- 
dom, reality, immediateness, — the reverse of the priestly "I 
interest. His religious experience often gives a profound 
quickening to his social consciousness, an unusual sense «| 
of the value of life and a strong compassion with the -' 
suffering and weak, and therefore a keen feeling for 
human rights and indignation against injustice. He has 
a religious conviction that God is against oppression and ', 
on the side of the weak.^ 

The religion of the priest and the religion of the 
prophet grow side by side, on the same national soil and 
from the same historic convictions, but they are two dis- 
tinct and antagonistic religions. The usual distinctions 
which separate religions and denominations are trivial 
compared with this. This difference cuts across most 
other lines of cleavage. Since the Reformation, how- 
ever, the personal qualities which marked the prophet ' 
have become to some extent the mark and foundation of 
continuous religious bodies. Over against Catholicism, ' 
Protestantism has, in its noblest periods, had prophetic / ' 
quality; over against the Established Churches the Free 
Churches have a prophetic mission. But the flame of 
prophetic religion is always dying down for lack of oxy- 
gen. It burns only when there is something worth 
burning for. It kindles wherever the Kingdom of God ^ 

1 1 wish to call attention in advance to a book which is still in 
preparation, " Religion, its Prophets and its Exploiters," by 
Professor James Bishop Thomas, Ph.D., of the University of the ^ 
South. It presents with impressive clearness the historic antagon- 
ism between priest and prophet. 


is clashing with the Kingdom of Evil. You can tell 
where the conflict is on today when you hear the voice 
of prophetic religion. In every religious body, even in 
those that have repudiated priestliness, you have the un- 
developed and unconscious priest and prophet side by 
side; mixed types, like Ezekiel and Savonarola; embry- 
onic prophets; spent prophets; prophets who have given 
up; prophets whose bodies and minds have been hurt 
and thrown out of equilibrium. God knows his own. 

The prophet is always the predestined advance agent 
of the Kingdom of God. His religion flings him as a 
fighter and protester against the Kingdom of Evil. His 
sense of justice, compassion, and solidarity sends him 
into tasks which would be too perilous for others. It 
connects him with oppressed social classes as their leader. 
He bears their risk and contempt. As he tries to rally 
the moral and religious forces of society, he encounters 
derelict and frozen religion, and the selfish and conserva- 
tive interest of the classes which exploit religion. He 
tries to arouse institutional religion from the inside, or he 
pounds it from the outside. This puts him in the posi- 
tion of a heretic, a free thinker, an enemy of religion, 
an atheist. Probably no prophet escaped without bearing 
some such name. His opposition to social injustice 
arouses the same kind of antagonism from those who 
profit by it. How far these interests will go in their 
methods of suppressing the prophets depends on their 
power and their needs. I have been impressed with the 
fact that though Christianity began in a renascence, of 
[prophetism, scarcely any personality who bears the marks / 
of the prophet can be found in Church History between ""■ 


A. D. 100 and A. D. 1200. Two main explanations sug- 
gest themselves : that their own capacity for self-sacrifice 
led the potential prophets into the monasteries and put 
them under monastic obedience; and that the Catholic 
Church, which embodies the priestly principles, suffocated 
the nascent prophets by its spiritual authority and the 
physical force it could command. 

In this way the death of Jesus has taken personal hold 
on countless religious souls. It has set them free from 
the fear of pain and the fear of men, and given them a 
certain finishing quality of strength. It has inspired 
courage and defiance of evil, and sent men on lost hopes. 
The cross of Christ put God's approval on the sacrificial 
impulse in the hearts of the brave, and dignified it by con- 
necting it with one of the central dogmas of our faith. 
The cross has become the motive and the method of noble 

It has compelled reflection on the value of the prophets 
for the progress of humanity. What might have been a 
sporadic and unaccountable religious instinct, has been 
lifted to the level of a law of history and religion. 

By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track, 
ToiHng up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not 

And these mounts of anguish number how each generation 

One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts 

hath burned 
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to 

heaven upturned.^ 

1 From James Russell Lowell's " Present Crisis." This poem is 
the finest expression I know of the historic function of prophet- 
hood within the solidarity of mankind and its spiritual progress. 


The death of Jesus was the clearest and most con- 
spicuous case of prophetic suffering. It shed its own 
clarity across all other, less perfect cases, and interpreted 
their moral dignity and religious significance. His death 
comforted and supported all who bore prophetic suffer- 
ing by the consciousness that they were "bearing the 
marks of the Lord Jesus" and were carrying on what 
he had borne. The prophet is always more or less cast 
iout by society and profoundly lonely and homeless; con- 
Jsequently he reaches out for companionship, for a tribal 
solidarity of his own, and a chieftainship of the spirit 
to which he can give his loyalty and from which he can 
gather strength. Then it is his rightful comfort to re- 
member that Jesus has suffered before him. 

Thus the cross of Christ contributes to strengthen the 
power of prophetic religion, and therewith the redemp- 
tive forces of the Kingdom of God. Before the Ref- 
ormation the prophet had only a precarious foothold 
within the Church and no right to live outside of it. The 
rise of free religion and political democracy has given 
him a field and a task. The era of prophetic and demo- 
cratic Christianity has just begun. This concerns the so- 
cial gospel, for the social gospel is the voice of prophecy 
in modem life. X 


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full measure of their ministry. That the Work of Preaching has 
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in Mission Schools, in Turkey, China, Korea and Japan. 

That the revised edition may increase the worth and influence of 
the book is the earnest desire of the author. 


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